In 1973 a group of Himalayan villagers spontaneously hugged trees to save them, by putting their bodies in the way of the axes. This practice quickly spread to neighbouring villages and within 5 years this became a national movement in India. The movement became known as Chipko Andolan, taking its name from the word Chipko meaning ‘embrace’.
By 1980 the Chipko protests, achieved a major victory. They obtained a 15-year ban on green felling in the Himalayan forests in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The ban was by order of the then Indian Prime Minister, Indira Ghandi. Similar bans were also implemented in the states Uttaranchal and Himachal Pradesh.
Every Little Movement Matters
The Chipko Movement was the result of hundreds of decentralised and locally autonomous initiatives. Its leaders and activists have primarily been village women. These women’s’ only desire was to save their communities and their means of sustenance. Men have been involved in the movement too.
A prominent leader of the movement was Sunderlal Bahuguna, a Gandhian activist and philosopher. It was Sunderlal Bahuguna who appealed to Indira Gandhi. His 5,000-kilometre trans-Himalayan foot march in 1981-83 was also crucial in spreading the Chipko message.
This humble movement has inspired numerous peaceful protests not just in India but globally with the aim of preventing deforestation and protecting natural environments.
An important aspect of the Chipko movement is that they practiced methods of Satyagraha. Satyagraha means “holding onto truth” and is stipulates non-violent resistance. Satyagraha was initially popularised by Mahatma Gandhi during his struggle for Indian rights in South Africa. He used the same principals during the Indian struggle for Independence. This method of peaceful resistance proves to be very successful.
Today beyond eco-socialism, the Chipko Movement is seen as an ecofeminism movement. Although many of its leaders were men, women were always its backbone. This is because women were the ones most affected by deforestation. Deforestation led to a lack of firewood, fodder and water. Over the years women also became primary stakeholders in afforestation work that happened under the Chipko movement. They were crucial in re-planting trees in areas of deforestation and protecting natural environments.
Organic Apoteke supports a number of peaceful Chipko and other environmental initiatives. If you would like more information on how to get involved in our programs or would like to tell us about any environmental campaigns that you would like us to support, please email us at: [email protected]