Chipko Movement

Chipko Movement 1973

This entry is part 10 of 16 in the series Communication and Social Change

Environmental Movements: Chipko Movement

The social movements in India are more than just demonstrations; they represent a nation demanding progress, equality, and justice. Every social movement in India has added to the country’s rich history.

The following is a list of some of India’s most well-known social movements and their effects on societal advancement and cultural change:

Land Reform Movement

  1. The Freedom Struggle: 1857–1947
  2. Post-Independence Movements: 1947–1980
  3. Late 20th Century: Liberalization and Beyond: 1980–2000
  4. The 21st Century: New Media, New Movements: 2000-Present

This article will discuss the Chipko Movement, part of India’s post-independence movements (1947–1980).

The Genesis of the Chipko Movement

The Chipko Movement of 1973 is a testament to the power of grassroots environmental activism and a symbol of the struggle for ecological and social justice. This movement was not just a protest against the felling of trees, but a battle led predominantly by women to preserve their traditional rights and cultural practices.

The term ‘Chipko,’ which means ‘to hug’ or ‘to cling,’ reflects the movement’s methodology, where villagers, including a large number of women, embraced trees to prevent loggers from cutting them down.

Chipko Movement

The iconic image of village women encircling trees has become emblematic of the fight against deforestation in India and has sparked similar initiatives worldwide.

The movement originated in Uttar Pradesh’s Chamoli district (now Uttarakhand) in 1973 and, in no time, spilled onto other states in north India.

After the 1963 Indo-China border conflict, the need for infrastructural development was felt, attracting many foreign logging companies eyeing the state’s vast forest resources.  The forests were the villagers’ lifeblood, and they relied on them for food and fuel.

The government’s policy, which forbade villagers from cutting trees for fuel, wood, fodder, or other purposes while allowing a sports manufacturing company to fall trees and use them to make equipment, infuriated the villagers, who started the Chipko movement.

The environmentalist and Gandhian social activist Chandi Prasad Bhatt, the founder of the cooperative organization “Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sangh,” led the first Chipko movement near the village of Mandal in 1973. After many days of agitation, the government canceled the company’s logging permit.

Chipko movement
Environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna with his wife Vimla

The Chipko Movement gained traction under Sunderlal Bahuguna, an eco-activist, who spent his life persuading and educating the villagers to protest against the destruction of the forests and Himalayan mountains. Bahuguna is best remembered for the slogan “ecology is the permanent economy.”

Impact of the Chipko Movement

The socio-cultural impact of the Chipko Movement is multi-dimensional:

Environmental Conservation

Chipko movement played a key role in changing India’s forest policy. It contributed to enacting the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, which stopped commercial logging, especially in the Himalayan regions.

Women Empowerment

Chipko highlighted the power of women as protectors of the environment. Women like Gaura Devi became the faces of the movement, bringing attention to the important role women can play in ecological balance and resource management.

Chipko Movement

Cultural Preservation

Forests are an integral part of the cultural identity of indigenous communities, providing them with fuel, fodder, medicinal plants, and wood. The movement fought to preserve their way of life against industrial encroachment.

Ecological Awareness

It has promoted the idea that ecological destruction shouldn’t come at the cost of economic development and has increased awareness of environmental issues. It has also been incorporated into the curriculum in educational institutions.

Global Influence

The success of the Chipko Movement has inspired people worldwide to take similar steps to preserve the environment. It showed that peaceful protests could lead to big changes in policy and became a model for future environmental movements.

The Chipko Movement left a deep mark, and its ideas are just as important now as they were in 1973. It tells us that communities can protect the environment for future generations by working together and giving people the power to make changes.

The CUET UG 2024 Mass Media and Communication syllabus contains this topic under the Communication section.

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