The Chipko movement or Chipko Andolan refers to a forest conservation movement. Chipko type movement dates back to 1730 AD when in khejarli village of Rajasthan, 363 people sacrificed their lives to save khejri trees. In modern india it began in 1973 and went on to become a rallying point for many future environmental movements all over the world it created a precedent for starting of nonviolent protest in India, and its success meant that the world immediately took notice of this non violent movement, which was to inspire in time many such eco-groups by helping to slow down the rapid deforestation, expose vested interests, increase ecological awareness, and demonstrate the viability of people power. Above all, it stirred up the existing civil society in India, which began to address the issues of tribal and marginalized people.
Today, beyond the eco-socialism hue, it is being seen increasingly as an ecofeminism movement. Although many of its leaders were men, women were not only its backbone, but also its mainstay, because they were the ones most affected by the rampant deforestation, which led to a lack of firewood and fodder as well as water for drinking and irrigation. Over the years they also became primary stakeholders in a majority of the afforestation work that happened under the Chipko movement. In 1987, the Chipko movement was awarded the Right Livelihood Award. The chipko aandolan is a movement that practised the Gandhian methods of Satyagraha where both male and female activists played vital roles, including Gaura Devi, Sudesha Devi, Bachni Devi and Chandi Prasad Bhatt.
The Chipko movement started in 1970s in the state of Uttar Pradesh (now Uttrakhand). Sunderlal Bahuguna and 84 villagers risked their lives to protect the forest trees from being felled on the order of the maharaja (king).
The year 1964 saw the establishment of Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sangh (DGSS) ("Dasholi Society for Village Self-Rule"), set up by Gandhian social worker Chandi Prasad Bhatt in Gopeshwar, and inspired by Jayaprakash Narayan and the Sarvodaya movement, with an aim to set up small industries using the resources of the forest. Their first project was a small workshop making farm tools for local use. Its name was later changed to DGSS from the original Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mandal (DGSM) in the 1980s. Here they had to face restrictive forest policies, a hangover of colonial era still prevalent, as well as the "contractor system", in which these pieces of forest land were commodified and auctioned to big contractors, usually from the plains, who brought along their own skilled and semi-skilled laborers, leaving only the menial jobs like hauling rocks for the hill people, and paying them next to nothing. On the other hand, the hill regions saw an influx of more people from the outside, which only added to the already strained ecological balance.
Hastened by increasing hardships, the Garhwal Himalayas soon became the centre for a rising ecological awareness of how reckless deforestation had denuded much of the forest cover, resulting in the devastating Alaknanda River floods of July 1970, when a major landslide blocked the river and affected an area starting from Hanumanchatti, near Badrinath to 350 km downstream till Haridwar, further numerous villages, bridges and roads were washed away. Thereafter, incidences of landslides and land subsidence became common in an area which was experiencing a rapid increase in civil engineering projects.
Beginnings and organization
Soon villagers, especially women, began to organize themselves under several smaller groups, taking up local causes with the authorities, and standing up against commercial logging operations that threatened their livelihoods. In October 1971, the Sanga workers held a demonstration in Gopeshwar to protest against the policies of the Forest Department. More rallies and marches were held in late 1972, but to little effect, until a decision to take direct action was taken. The first such occasion occurred when the Forest Department turned down the Sangh's annual request for ten Ash Trees for its farm tools workshop, and instead awarded a contract for 300 trees to Simon Company, a sporting goods manufacturer in distant Allahabad, to make tennis racquets. In March 1973, the lumbermen arrived at Gopeshwar, and after a couple of weeks, they were confronted at village Mandal on 24 April 1973, where about hundred villagers and DGSS workers were beating drums and shouting slogans, thus forcing the contractors and their lumbermen to retreat. This was the first confrontation of the movement, The contract was eventually cancelled and awarded to the Sangh instead. By now, the issue had grown beyond the mere procurement of an annual quota of three ash trees, and encompassed a growing concern over commercial logging and the government's forest policy, which the villagers saw as unfavorable towards them. The Sangh also decided to resort to tree-hugging, or Chipko, as a means of non-violent protest.
But the struggle was far from over, as the same company was awarded more ash trees, in the Phata forest, 80 km away from Gopeshwar. Here again, due to local opposition, starting on 20 June 1973, the contractors retreated after a stand-off that lasted a few days. Thereafter, the villagers of Phata and Tarsali formed a vigil group and watched over the trees until December, when they had another successful stand-off, when the activists reached the site in time. The lumbermen retreated leaving behind the five ash trees felled.
The final flash point began a few months later, when the government announced an auction scheduled in January 1974, for 2,500 trees near Reni village, overlooking the Alaknanda River. Bhatt set out for the villages in the Reni area, and incited the villagers, who decided to protest against the actions of the government by hugging the trees. Over the next few weeks, rallies and meetings continued in the Reni area.
On 25 March 1974, the day the lumbermen were to cut the trees, the men of the Reni village and DGSS workers were in Chamoli, diverted by state government and contractors to a fictional compensation payment site, while back home labourers arrived by the truckload to start logging operations. A local girl, on seeing them, rushed to inform Gaura Devi, the head of the village Mahila Mangal Dal, at Reni village (Laata was her ancestral home and Reni adopted home). Gaura Devi led 27 of the village women to the site and confronted the loggers. When all talking failed, and the loggers started to shout and abuse the women, threatening them with guns, the women resorted to hugging the trees to stop them from being felled. This went on into late hours. The women kept an all-night vigil guarding their trees from the cutters until a few of them relented and left the village. The next day, when the men and leaders returned, the news of the movement spread to the neighbouring Laata and others villages including Henwalghati, and more people joined in. Eventually, only after a four-day stand-off, the contractors left.
Far reaching effect
The news soon reached the state capital, where then state Chief Minister, Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna, set up a committee to look into the matter, which eventually ruled in favour of the villagers. This became a turning point in the history of eco-development struggles in the region and around the world.
The struggle soon spread across many parts of the region, and such spontaneous stand-offs between the local community and timber merchants occurred at several locations, with hill women demonstrating their new-found power as non-violent activists. As the movement gathered shape under its leaders, the name Chipko movement was attached to their activities. According to Chipko historians, the term originally used by Bhatt was the word "angalwaltha" in the Garhwali language for "embrace", which later was adapted to the Hindi word, Chipko, which means to stick. Over the next five years, the movement spread to many districts in the region, and within a decade throughout the UttarakhandHimalayas. Larger issues of ecological and economic exploitation of the region were raised. The villagers demanded that no forest-exploiting contracts should be given to outsiders and local communities should have effective control over natural resources like land, water, and forests. They wanted the government to provide low-cost materials to small industries and ensure development of the region without disturbing the ecological balance. The movement took up economic issues of landless forest workers and asked for guarantees of minimum wage. Globally Chipko demonstrated how environment causes, up until then considered an activity of the rich, were a matter of life and death for the poor, who were all too often the first ones to be devastated by an environmental tragedy. Several scholarly studies were made in the aftermath of the movement. In 1977, in another area, women tied sacred threads, Raksha Bandhan, around trees earmarked for felling in a Hindu tradition which signifies a bond between brother and sisters.
Women's participation in the Chipko agitation was a very novel aspect of the movement. The forest contractors of the region usually doubled up as suppliers of alcohol to men. Women held sustained agitations against the habit of alcoholism and broadened the agenda of the movement to cover other social issues. The movement achieved a victory when the government issued a ban on felling of trees in the Himalayan regions for fifteen years in 1980 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, until the green cover was fully restored. One of the prominent Chipko leaders, Gandhian Sunderlal Bahuguna, took a 5,000 kilometre trans-Himalaya foot march in 1981–83, spreading the Chipko message to a far greater area. Gradually, women set up cooperatives to guard local forests, and also organized fodder production at rates conducive to local environment. Next, they joined in land rotation schemes for fodder collection, helped replant degraded land, and established and ran nurseries stocked with species they selected.
One of Chipko's most salient features was the mass participation of female villagers. As the backbone of Uttarakhand's Agrarian economy, women were most directly affected by environmental degradation and deforestation, and thus related to the issues most easily. How much this participation impacted or derived from the ideology of Chipko has been fiercely debated in academic circles.
Despite this, both female and male activists did play pivotal roles in the movement including Gaura Devi, Sudesha Devi, Bachni Devi, Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Sundarlal Bahuguna, Govind Singh Rawat, Dhoom Singh Neji, Shamsher Singh Bisht and Ghanasyam Raturi, the Chipko poet, whose songs are still popular in the Himalayan region. Out of which, Chandi Prasad Bhatt was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1982, and Sundarlal Bahuguna was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 2009.
In Tehri district, Chipko activists would go on to protest limestone mining in the Doon Valley (Dehra Dun) in the 1980s, as the movement spread through the Dehradun district, which had earlier seen deforestation of its forest cover leading to heavy loss of flora and fauna. Finally quarrying was banned after years of agitation by Chipko activists, followed by a vast public drive for afforestation, which turned around the valley, just in time. Also in the 1980s, activists like Bahuguna protested against construction of the Tehri dam on the Bhagirathi River, which went on for the next two decades, before founding the Beej Bachao Andolan, the Save the Seeds movement, that continues to the present day.
Over time, as a United Nations Environment Programme report mentioned, Chipko activists started "working a socio-economic revolution by winning control of their forest resources from the hands of a distant bureaucracy which is only concerned with the selling of forestland for making urban-oriented products". The Chipko movement became a benchmark for socio-ecological movements in other forest areas of Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar; in September 1983, Chipko inspired a similar, Appiko movement in Karnataka state of India, where tree felling in the Western Ghats and Vindhyas was stopped. In Kumaon region, Chipko took on a more radical tone, combining with the general movement for a separate Uttarakhand state, which was eventually achieved in 2000.
In recent years, the movement not only inspired numerous people to work on practical programmes of water management, energy conservation, afforestation, and recycling, but also encouraged scholars to start studying issues of environmental degradation and methods of conservation in the Himalayas and throughout India.
On 26 March 2004, Reni, Laata, and other villages of the Niti Valley celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Chipko movement, where all the surviving original participants united. The celebrations started at Laata, the ancestral home of Gaura Devi, where Pushpa Devi, wife of late Chipko Leader Govind Singh Rawat, Dhoom Singh Negi, Chipko leader of Henwalghati, Tehri Garhwal, and others were celebrated. From here a procession went to Reni, the neighbouring village, where the actual Chipko action took place on 26 March 1974. This marked the beginning of worldwide methods to improve the present situation. Recently, by following the legacy of the Chipko movement, in 2017 rapid deforestation over the century-old trees, forming almost a canopy in Jessore Road of the district of North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, has also flicked off a huge movement in the form of the campaign of saving 4000 trees by the local masses.
- ^ abcBox 5: Women defend the treesGlobal Environment Outlook, GEO Year Book 2004/5, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
- ^The women of ChipkoStaying alive: women, ecology, and development, by Vandana Shiva, Published by Zed Books, 1988. ISBN 0-86232-823-3. Page 67
- ^The Chipko MovementPolitics in the developing world: a concise introduction, by Jeffrey Haynes. Published by Wiley-Blackwell, 2002. ISBN 0-631-22556-0. Page 229.
- ^Chipko MovementThe Future of the Environment: The Social Dimensions of Conservation and Ecological Alternatives, by David C. Pitt. Published by Routledge, 1988. ISBN 0-415-00455-1. Page 112.
- ^Dankelman, Irene; Davidson, Joan (1988). "[Studying Chipko Movement – ] Pakistani Women Visit India's Environmental NGOs". Women and Environment in the Third World: Alliance for the Future. London: Earthscan. p. 129. ISBN 1-85383-003-8. OCLC 17547228. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
- ^ChipkoArchived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Right Livelihood Award Official website.
- ^Singh, Mahesh Prasad; Singh, J. K.; Mohanka, Reena (2007-01-01). Forest Environment and Biodiversity. Daya Publishing House. p. 157. ISBN 9788170354215.
- ^Starting..Of myths and movements: rewriting Chipko into Himalayan history, by Haripriya Rangan. Published by Verso, 2000. ISBN 1-85984-305-0. Page 4-5.
- ^ ab"Hug the Trees!" – Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Gaura Devi, and the Chipko Movement By Mark Shepard. Gandhi Today: A Report on Mahatma Gandhi’s Successors, Simple Productions, Arcata, California, 1987, reprinted by Seven Locks Press, Washington, D.C., 1987.
- ^Ecological crisisWater Wars: Privatization, Pollution and Profit, by Vandana Shiva. Published by Pluto Press, 2002. ISBN 0-7453-1837-1. Page 3.
- ^Landslides and FloodsArchived 1 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine. Pauri district website.
- ^ abcChipko 30th Anniversary The Nanda Devi Campaign.
- ^Chipko! – Hill conservationists[permanent dead link]Tehelka, 11 September 2004.
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- ^A Gandhian in GarhwalThe Hindu, Sunday, 2 June 2002.
- ^The Chipko Movement: India’s Call to Save Their Forests womeninworldhistory.com.
- ^Bahuguna, the sentinel of Himalayas by Harihar Swarup, The Tribune, 8 July 2007.
- ^ abChipko Movement – IndiaInternational Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). December 2007.
- ^India: the Chipko movementFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
- ^Mishra, A., & Tripathi, (1978). Chipko movement: Uttaranchal women's bid to save forest wealth. New Delhi: People's Action/Gandhi Book House.
- ^Aryal, M. (1994, January/February). Axing Chipko. Himal, 8–23.
- ^Citation for the 1982 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community LeadershipRamon Magsaysay Award website.
- ^Chipko ..the first modern Indian environmentalist, and also to being the greatest...Ramchandra Guha, The Telegraph, 4 September 2004.
- Anupam Mishra, Satyendra Tripathi: Chipko movement: Uttarakhand women's bid to save forest wealth. Pub. by People's Action, 1978.
- J. Bandopadhyay and Vandana Shiva: Chipko: India's Civilisational Response to the Forest Crisis. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage. Pub. by INTACH, 1986.
- J. Bandopadhyay and Vandana Shiva: "The Chipko Movement Against Limestone Quarrying in Doon Valley" in: Lokayan Bulletin, 5 : 3, 1987, pp. 19–25 online
- Thomas Weber, Hugging the trees: the story of the Chipko movement, Viking, 1988.
- Somen Chakraborty: A Critique of Social Movements in India: Experiences of Chipko, Uttarakhand, and Fishworkers' Movement, Published by Indian Social Institute, 1999. ISBN 81-87218-06-1.
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Chipko Movement in India!
The Chipko Movement was started in the northern Himalayan segment of Uttar Pradesh, the area that is well known as Uttarakhand. The word “chipko” refers “to stick” or “to hug”. The name of the movement comes from a word meaning “embrace”: where the villagers hug the trees, saving them by interposing their bodies between them and the contractors’ axes.
This became popular as “Chipko movement”. Chipko movement is a grassroot level movement, which started in response to the needs of the people of Uttarakhand. The rate of heavy depletion of forests was resulting in destruction, arid- making the Himalayan mountain range barren. Moreover, the construction of dams, factories and roads had already led to deforestation.
Most of the leaders of the Chipko Movement were village women and men who strove to save their means of subsistence and their communities. Sunderlal Bahuguna, a renowned Gandhian, with a group of volunteers and women started the non-violent protest by clinging to the trees to save them from felling.
This gave a start to the “Chipko Movement”. The main objective of this movement was to ensure an ecological balance and the survival of the tribal people whose economic activities revolved around these forests. His appeal to Mrs Gandhi resulted in the green-felling ban.
The 5,000-km trans-Himalaya foot march in 1981-1983 was crucial in spreading the Chipko message. Bahuguna coined the Chipko slogan: “ecology is permanent economy”. Chandi Prasad Bhatt, one of the earliest Chipko activists, fostered local industries based on the conservation and sustainable use of forest wealth for local benefit. Dhoom Singh Negi, with Bachni Devi and many village women, first saved trees by hugging them in the “Chipko embrace”.
They coined the slogan:
“what do the forests bear” soil, water, and pure air”. Ghanashyam Raturi, the Chipko poet, whose songs echo throughout the Himalayas of Uttar Pradesh and Indu Tikekar, a doctor of philosophy, whose spiritual discourses throughout India on the ancient Sanskrit scriptures and on comparative religion have stressed the unity and oneness of life, put the Chipko Movement in this context and there are other prominent leaders of the movement.
The first Chipko action took place spontaneously in April 1973 in the village of Mandal in the upper Alakananda valley, and over the next five years it spread too many districts of the Himalayas in Uttar Pradesh. It was sparked off by the government’s decision to allot a plot of forest area in the Alakananda valley to a sports goods company.
This angered the villagers, because their demand to use wood for making agricultural tools had been denied earlier. With encouragement from a local NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), DGSS (Dasoli Gram Swarajya Sangh), the women of the area, under the leadership of an activist, Chandi Prasad Bhatt, went into the forest and formed a circle around the trees preventing men from cutting them down.
The Uttarakhand region is a highly remote area due to its precipitous slopes, with thin and fragile soils. The area is highly resourced with abundant water resources and forests. The people living in this region are farmers, whose major occupations are terrace cultivation and animal husbandry. The extensive network of roads, which have been built after the Indo-Chinese border conflict, made accessibility to this region easier.
As a result, the Uttarakhand region, which is known for rich minerals, soils, and forests, attracted many entrepreneurs. Soon the area became the object of exploitation by these entrepreneurs. Some products for which the region was exploited were timber, limestone, magnesium, potassium, etc. The major source of conflicts in this region was the exploitation of the forests by the entrepreneurs with the approval of the government.
The other reason for such conflicts was that the villagers were earlier denied the use of forests. The streamlined policies did not allow the local agriculturists and herders to cut the trees for fuel wood or for fodder and for certain other purposes.
Instead, they were told that dead trees and fallen branches would serve their needs. The agriculturists or herders could cut trees only for the construction of houses and for making implements. The policies were reframed, claiming that the overuse and misuse of the forests was causing deforestation.
Moreover, the timber and charcoal contractors conspired among themselves and blamed the local people for deforestation. The villagers, with the help of social workers, established labor and small-scale-producer co-operatives, which aimed at allowing the local people to share the benefits of development.
There continued long arguments between the villagers, timber contractors, social workers, and the personnel of the forest department. The first spark of the movement started in 1972 at Gopeshwar in Chamoli district when a local co-operative was not given permission to cut 12 ash trees for the purpose of building houses and for tool-making. Instead, the government sold the ash trees to a sports-goods manufacturing company for the purpose of making bats and tennis rackets.
The villagers appeal to the government went in vain. In protest, the villagers adopted a non-violent method and they stuck themselves to the trees to protect them from being felled. The villagers were successful in their effort and the government cancelled the permit given to the sports-goods manufacturing company. Thus, started the Chipko Movement.
Such other incidents have become successful and the movement soon spread to other areas. The Chipko activists formed into groups and campaigned from village to village and informed people about the purpose and importance of the movement. The movement has been diversifying its activities. It is now collecting funds to take up research on the issues of forests, soil, and water conservation.
The Chipko protests in Uttar Pradesh achieved a major victory in 1980 with a 15-year ban on green felling in the Himalayan forests of that state by the order of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India. Since then, the movement has spread to many states in the country.
In addition to the 15 year ban in Uttar Pradesh, felling in the Western Ghats and the Vindhyas has been stopped. It has also generated pressure for a natural resource policy that is more sensitive to peoples, needs and ecological requirements.
Thus, the Chipko Movement is an important environmental movement, which has gained considerable popularity and success by adopting a Gandhian non-violent method. The movement paved the way for many such environmental movements in the country.