Chipko Movement was organized in the 1970s to prevent deforestation that was rapidly happening in the country. The word ‘Chipko’ means ‘embrace’. The movement sought to prevent cutting of trees, by hugging trees. It was a non-violent struggle against the destruction and exploitation of India’s precious natural resources, the forests.
Inception of the Movement
The movement started with local women in the Rani village rallying together on 26th March 1974, to safeguard Banj trees. The rapidity with which these trees were being felled invoked the concern of the Pahadi People, as they began to notice the drastic effect it had on their daily livelihood and in the environment.
The Benevolent Banj
The Himalayan Tsunami of 2013 was a fallout of the disappearance of Banj trees. More on the importance of Banj trees in maintaining the ecosystem of the mountains in our article, Himalayan Tsunami, Waiting to Happen, Happened – Why?
Hugging Trees to Save Them
The Pahadi women formed human chains and hugged the Banj trees to prevent them from being felled. In 1974, the Pahadi women prevented the auctioning of around 2500 trees, by standing around them in embrace.
One of the popular slogans of the Chipko movement was,
‘Embrace the Trees and
Save them from being felled;
The property of our hills,
Save them from being looted’
Across the Country
Starting from this small village, the Chipko movement spread through the country and reached its peaks in 1980, when it forced the then prime minister Indira Gandhi to pass a law, banning the cutting of trees in the Himalayan region for the next 15 years.
Over the next many years, the Chipko movement was instrumental in many afforestation work.
In 1987, the Chipko Movement was awarded the ‘Right Livelihood Award’.
Sunderlal Bahugana was the main leader of the Chipko movement. He travelled 5000 kms in 3 years, between 1981 and 1983, passing on the message of the Chipko movement. In 1989, Saunderlal Bahugana began many hunger strikes, in protest against the construction of a dam in the Himalayas, where the forests would be the casualties. The Chipko movement thereafter was known as ‘Save the Himalaya Movement’.
Among 100 who shaped India
In an edition of India Today magazine of 2008, the people who organized the Chipko Movement were counted among the ‘100 People who shaped India’.
They indeed shaped the Himalayan region. If not for the Chipko Movement, the Himalayas would have faced many Tsunamis in the last many decades, and been badly out of shape.