Chipko movement is a socio-ecological movement that aimed at resisting mass deforestation using Gandhian ways of Non-violent resistance and satyagraha through the act of hugging the trees to guard them against being cut down for commercial purposes.
The year 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the Chipko Andolan (Movement).
“Chipko” interprets to “stick” or to “hug” interposing their bodies between the trees and also the contractor’s axes.
The practice of embracing trees, both literally and figuratively, predate the Chipko movement. The Bishnoi community in Rajasthan were the pioneers in protecting forest resources. The first ever recorded event of Chipko movement that was the precursor to the movement in Garhwal happened in Khejarli village in Jodhpur in 1730 AD where many Bishnois protested under the leadership of Amrita Devi Bishnoi and sacrificed their lives to guard the Khejri trees.
About Khejri tree: Rajasthan’s State tree — Khejri, is also known as the lifeline of the people in Western Rajasthan in the earlier times. Khejri ( Prosopis cineraria) covers about two-thirds of the total geographical area of the State. It provided firewood and even acted as a cash crop.
- The “Chipko Movement” is a comparatively modern movement that was initiated in Garhwal range of mountains of Uttarakhand within the early Seventies (1974) because of spreading awareness about rapid deforestation and its adverse effects.
- It saw the large participation of women. Its leaders and activists were primarily women, acting so as to guard their subsistence and their communities.
- The very highlight of this movement remains that it was a silent, non-violent protest condemning ecological destruction.
- The immediate reason for the Chipko Andolan was the government’s policy that did not allow local agriculturists and herders to cut the trees for fuelwood or for fodder, etc. However, a sports manufacturing company was given the permission to fell green trees and use them to make equipment. This proved to be the final provocation and a people’s movement was born. It was then that environmentalist and Gandhian social activist Chandi Prasad Bhatt, founder of the cooperative organisation Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sangh, led the first Chipko movement near the village of Mandal in 1973.
- Sundarlal Bahuguna, a famous Gandhian, who is said to have initiated this movement to guard the trees on the Himalayan slopes. Bahuguna is also known for coining the Chipko slogan ‘ecology is permanent economy’.
- The landmark event of this silent protest happened in March 1973 where peasant women in Chamoli district of Uttrakhand reclaimed their forest rights from the State Forest Department and prevented the trees from being cut down.
- The roots of the modern Chipko movement lay in the spurt in development activities in the hilly region following the 1963 China border conflict. The need for infrastructural development had attracted many foreign logging companies, who were eyeing the vast forest resources of the hills. However, these forests were the lifeblood of the villagers, especially the women, and they relied on it heavily for both food and fuel. In 1970, widespread floods had inundated the area and were attributed to the mismanagement caused due to commercial logging. This caused rage among the villagers.
- The Chipko movement is essentially called a women’s movement. The movement appealed to women because women suffered the most due to floods and landslides, which were caused due to rise in deforestation in the face of urbanisation. Chipko Andolan stands out as an eco-feminist movement.
- This inspired many such movements across India, reaching as far as the Vindhyas and also the Western Ghats. It generated pressure for a natural resource policy that is more sensitive to the environment and people’s wants.
- The movement, later also inspired the “Appiko Chaluvali” or the “Appiko Movement”, which is the Southern Indian version of “Chipko Movement”.
The result of Chipko Movement
After half a decade of strong protests, the Chipko movement yielded result in 1980, with the government banning the felling of trees in the Himalayan forests of Uttar Pradesh for a period of 15 years. Subsequently, the green-felling ban was also extended to forests in the Western Ghats and the Vindhyas.
The movement’s biggest triumph was making people aware of their rights to forests, and how grassroots activism can influence policy-making regarding ecology and shared natural resources.
According to the biennial State of Forests Report 2017, India has registered a marginal increase in forest cover between 2015 and 2017. It was found that the land under forest cover amounted to 21.53% of the geographical area of the country.