Protests Over Governmental Cooptation of Chipko Celebration

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Protesting the CooptationThe thirtieth Anniversary of Chipko Andolan in Reni, the village of late Gaura Devi, the inspiration of this Andolan, was celebrated with great pomp and show. However the villagers of Lata protested the fact that it was made into a governmental celebration that had kept people out. They showed their anger by shouting slogans against the government and forest department, which raised tensions and divided the people into two groups. The son of late Gaura Devi himself made the accusation on the platform that some people are playing games with collecting money in the name of his mother, which is very unfortunate.

The local Mahila Mangal Dal and some self-help organizations affiliated with the Nanda Devi National Park authorities celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of world famous CHIPKO Andolan started by the forest-daughter, the Late Gaura Devi in its birth place Reni. In the celebration, the speakers spoke of the importance of saving forests by the Andolan of late Gaura Devi. The main guest A.K. Banerjee, the forest officer of Nanda Devi National Park advised guests to follow in the path of the Late Gaura Devi and said doubtlessly that she gave a new vision to the world to relate to trees. In this celebration, the VIP guests who remembered her by lighting lamps at her picture were the SDM of Joshimath, Udai Singh, and the chief of Joshimath Municipality, Madhvi Sati. Because of the government’s presence, the local people became irritated by the attempt to make it into a governmental function, and started chanting slogans against the local municipal and park administrations.

After a few hours of starting the function, the only son of Late Gaura Devi, Chander Singh Rana, told the audience that the whole world is taking advice from his mother’s Andolan. At the same time, there are some government and non-government officers who are busy collecting money and popularity on the back of the Chipko Andolan. He showed his anger for the fact that they were not informed about the opening ceremonies at the rest house for the remembrance of Late Gaura Devi by the Nanda Devi National Park authorities. Some time ago they received a letter from the environmental expert Sunder Lal Bahuguna. In the letter it is written that three lakhs of Rupees were sent in the name of late Gaura Devi, but he claimed they did not know till now where the money went.

After this the villagers of Lata became angry at the organisers. They said for a long time, the local people from Lata, Reni and Tolma and neighbouring villages were planning the anniversary with their own resources, so felt that it was an insult to the Chipko Andolan by giving the responsibilities to the local administration. In anger, a group from the Mahila Mangal Dal of Lata and workers of Yuvak Mangal Dal started chanting slogans against Forest Department. Atul Sati, the former pradhan Dhan Singh Rana, and the president of the Mahila Mangal Dal and Yuvak Mangal Dal organized the protests.

On this occasion Gaur Singh Kunwar, Gram Pradhan Lila Devi, Rameshwar Thapliyal, Mohan Parshad, Inder Singh Shayana, Anil Shah, the Chief of Thana G.L.Shah, Premananad Pant, Harish Bhandari, Ranjit Rana, Harish Chandola etc. gave their thoughts.

Dainik Jagran (translated)
27 March, 2004