But looking back, we still have a fine example to be proud of and a mine of inspiration to profit from! Aapiko didn’t limit itself to Karnataka but spread to Kerala and Tamil Nadu as well. Now let’s make a move to give birth to many more such movements!
In the wake of lack of greenery, profusion of cement and concrete space and a planet of extinguishing animals, conservation is a certain task at hand. But are we aware of the innovative and beautiful ways which have been adapted by the creative minds of India to tackle the same problem? Indeed it is interesting and vital for us to learn how environmental activism has taken shape over the years in India. And I tell you, this trip can be fascinating!
Going into the history of conservation efforts this country has witnessed, a non-wide spread and very less known story goes that in the time about 276 years ago, a group of villagers from a forest in Rajasthan fought against the felling of trees. It began when Amrita Devi, a village woman, with her two daughters in tow, cast herself as a midway between the tree and someone intending to chop it down. She gave up her life as well as the lives of her girls for the cause of the trees. For its conservation. And soon enough, people from the Bishnoi community, the community to which she belonged to, came forth and did exactly the same! A total of 363 Bishnois were killed which compelled the then Maharaja of Jodhpur to pass decree to protect the forest and animals around Bishnoi villages.
Perhaps inspired by the Bishnois, perhaps not, another conservation movement took place a little more recently, in the 1970s.It happened in Uttarakhand. Called the ‘Chipko Movement’, ‘Chipko’ meaning embrace in Hindi, this movement saw villagers going about embracing trees and putting themselves between the trees and the axe-men. Saving the forests at the foothills of the Himalayas which were rich in fodder,minerals,fuel and crucial to soil stabilization; this movement didn’t require any human sacrifice to become a huge success!
Truly! Very soon forest dwellers all over India realised that their forest was precious and Chipko Movement spread all over India! This movement that scaled the length and breadth of the nation to impress our then PM Mrs.Indira Gandhi who went on to put a 15 year ban on felling of trees, soon found its way into north Karnataka. It came to be called ‘Aapiko Movement’ here…(‘Aapiko’which again means to hug in Kannada). Around 150 women and 30 men went ahead to hug trees to save them in the Aapiko Movement. All these efforts resulted in the government making major policy changes pertaining to forests ,providing more for ecological concerns and its inhabitants-the people!
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has poisoned, and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money!-Anonymous
The tension is that we still have enough fish in the pond and trees to blind us from this realisation! And the reason for this is that while change in forest policies have been brought about and been sanctioned, the government also sanctions mining, dam construction, road and railway building activity in the same measure says Pandurang Hagde an environmentalist, one of the leaders of the Aapiko Movement. So far, so good. The problem arises when the two agendas overlap and invade eachother.Forest policies should be kept away from the hindrance of any other signs of human progress!
I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority-Elwyn Brooks White.