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Thursday, 29 August 2013 20:35

The Chipko Movement

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"Start using your axes to chop! Why don't you start? Remember, we will die, but we will not let you cut our trees!"

This challenge was issued from the brave ladies of Raini, a village of Uttaranchal, while they were hugging their trees to keep them from being cut down.

The jungle in question bordered the village, and the people of the village were dependent on it for their daily necessities. It was from there that they retrieved firewood and wood for construction. It was also in that jungle that they grazed their animals and collected fodder. In fact, Raini was not the only village whose inhabitants' lives were intertwined with that particular jungle. And almost all the villages of the hills are the same. People's lives depend on what they can muster from their surroundings, especially the lush forests that characterize the region.

Many jungles in the area were being senselessly cut down by government contractors for other purposes. The contractors had been given permission to cut the older, dead trees, but they had grossly overstretched their jurisdiction and were wrecklessly destroying the forests. Slowly, the green jungles were turning into desolate, rocky hillsides.

The contract was given, also, for the jungle of Raini village, but the ladies of the village knew about the situation from the other villages. They decided that they would not let the same problem come to their village. They agreed that they would, if need be, sacrifice their lives to protect the jungle. The leader of the group was a local lady, Gaura Devi. She was an illiterate farmer, but she was a very sensitive and perceptive woman.

When the contractors arrived, Gaura Devi and the other women from the village were clinging to the trees creating a human shield. The workers for the contractors tried to force the women to separate themselves from the trees with psychological pressure and threats of physical violence, but the ladies held strong. They had already decided that they would not allow the contractors to cut a single tree, and they were not afraid. Slowly, slowly, the women from other nearby villages came to support the Raini women in their efforts to maintain the forests.

Eventually, the women won out and the contractors had to refrain from cutting anymore of their forest. Taking inspiration from this initial group of brave women, the movement spread throughout Uttaranchal known as the Chipko Movement. Everywhere it was lead by the women of the region and supported by everyone. Because of this widespread movement, the government had to change its policies to protect the traditional rights of the denizens of Uttaranchal.

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