Today’s Google doodle is commemorating the 45th anniversary of the ‘Chipko Movement’, which started in April 1973 in Uttar Pradesh’s Mandal village in the upper Alakananda valley. As the name suggests, this was a nonviolent movement for the conservation of forests.
Though the Chipko Movement gathered prominence in the 1970’s, the idea had actually germinated way back in 18th century Rajasthan. Back then, the Bishnoi community hugged the trees to protect them against the axing order by Jodhpur’s Maharaja. The original movement was called “angalwaltha”, the Garhwali word for “embrace”, as the protesters protected the trees by surrounding them and linking hands, physically preventing the loggers from touching the plants. The movement was later named for the Hindi word “chipko”, which means “to stick”. The movement was successful, and the King passed a royal decree preventing cutting of trees in all Bishnoi villages.
In modern India, the Chipko Movement started out in Mandal Village in Uttar Pradesh, and slowly spread to other districts. The movement was triggered after the government alloted forest land to a sports goods company. The movement strongly followed the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence. It was spearheaded by environmentalist and Gandhian social activist Chand Chandi Prasad Bhatt and his NGO Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sangh.
Its success saw the movement spread to other parts of India, and included key figures like Dhoom Singh Negi, Bachni Devi, Gaura Devi, and Sudesha Devi among others. Under the leadership of another Gandhian activist Sunderlal Bahuguna, the movement got mass appeal that led to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi banning the cutting of trees.
On its doodle blog, Google wrote, “The Chipko Andolan also stands out as an eco-feminist movement. Women formed the nucleus of the movement, as the group most directly affected by the lack of firewood and drinking water caused by deforestation. The power of protest is an invaluable and powerful agent of social change.”