Q.4 (b) “The Chipko became famous as the first major environmental movement in post-colonial India and gave to the understanding that environment issues are often women’s issues because they suffer most from its deterioration.” – Explain.
The Chipko movement got its name from the actions of women in Uttarakhand in 1970s who hugged trees in order to prevent them from being cut down by timber contractors. Chipko, meaning “hugging”, is used to describe the movement because local village women literally “hugged” trees, interposing their bodies between the trees and the loggers to prevent their being cut down. The Chipko Movement was an ecological movement, concerned with the preservation of forests and thereby with the maintenance of the traditional ecological balance in the sub-Himalayan region, where hill people have traditionally enjoyed a positive relationship with their environment.
The movement held an important place in the history of India for being the one of the first and primary movements on environmental concern which was later imitated in many other regions of the country. The local inhabitants especially women took a lead and stood before the giant timber mafia to prevent them from cutting down the trees.It is true that many of the pioneers were men like Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Sundar Lal Bhauguna , but the women formed the backbone of the surge.
The reasons of women participation lies in the contemporary Indian society and dependence of the women upon the trees. The society necessitated women to arrange firewood, fodder and water etc. The women hence were quite dependent upon the trees for fulfilling their functions. It were the trees which provided the necessary fuel and fodder directly apart from providing them food as well.
The water requirements were met through nearby ponds or rivers which were mostly clean due to the trees as trees stopped soil erosion and hence silting of rivers, ponds and lake etc.
The slow degradation of the hilly region, and the fall out of water shortage, of landsides, of lack of fodder and firewood – affected the women directly, being solely in charge of cultivation, livestock and children. They would be the first ones to bear the brunt of an environmental disaster waiting to happen. They believed in the traditional equilibrium and relationship of humans and forests which is to be nurtured.
So, by cutting the trees, women were mostly affected. It would have resulted into them going far to collect the fuel, food, fodder and water. They were able to perceive the link between their victimization and the denuding of mountain slopes by commercial interests. Thus, sheer survival made women support the movement.
With constant pressure and the movement gathering momentum the then Prime Minister banned tree-felling in the region for 15 years.
Adopting these radical but peaceful methods, the women had taken up leadership positions, forced themselves into decision making situations, in a heavily patriarchal society. Over a period of time the women became aware of their potential as soldiers of the movement and went on to enhance their roles.