Short Note on Chipko Movement

Chipko means to ‘to hug’ or ‘to embrace’. The villagers formed a human chain and encircled earmarked trees to save them for being felled. This movement draws its inspiration from the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence and has become a full eco feminist-development movement. The movement started at Alkananda catchment area of mid-western Himalayas where the people were unable to sustain their livelihood due to deforestation. The women had to walk for miles in search of firewood, fodder and patches of land for grazing their animals. A few logging firms were given contracts to bring down forest rims around the hills of Central Himalayas. Due to deforestation for construction of roads by Border Security Force (BSF), there was soil erosion. In July 1970, there was a massive flood. The Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mondal (DGSM) carried out relief work and sensitized the local people that the reason of flood was destruction of forests.

The Forest Department turned down the Sangh’s yearly request for ten ash trees for its farm tools workshop was the first instance, and instead bestowed a contract for 300 trees to Simon Company. Simon company was a sporting goods manufacturer in distant Allahabad, to make tennis racquets. In 1973, the village Mandal confronted the lumbermen who arrived at Gopeshwar, where about many villagers along with Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mondal were beating drums and shouting slogans, thus forcing the contractors to retreat. It is a movement that practiced methods of Satyagraha where both male and female activists from Uttarakhand played vital roles, including Gaura Devi, Suraksha Devi, Sudesha Devi, Bachni Devi and Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Virushka Devi and others.

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” for its dedication to the conservation, restoration and ecologically- sound use of India’s natural resources.

Sunderlal Bahuguna an eminent leader of chipkoandolan also spread the messege bare footed in the Doon Valley in the Himalayan foothills. In the valley, due to mining of limestone, trees like Banj, Tun, Sinsyaru and Chir were cut. The natural water storage got disturbed which hit the rural women hard who had to fetch water from long distances. They emulated the ethos of the Chipko Movement of the Garhwal and laid blockage in the mining operations near the stream SinsyaruKhala, whose source had been mined for twenty years. Chamundevi and Iswairi Devi led local Chipko movement for more than two decades. They employed varied forms like, hugging trees and embracing living materials.

Later, many movements were observed in the shadeof the Chipko force in the Western and Eastern Ghats. The main target for both was the Eucalyptus sapling being planted by the paper and pulp industries. A number of countries from the developed world namely, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, France etc. also acknowledged the Chipko Movement. The United Nation’s Conference on Human Environment held at Stockholm in 1972 asserted its importance on the global level.

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