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Gaura Devi : Mother of Chipko Movement

“Forest is like our mother’s home, we shall protect it come what may. If the forests are cut down the flood strike will swap our everything”, voice upraised by a woman of Chamoli as a weapon. On the deforestation in Uttrakhand and named Chipko movement.

Uttrakhand can also be said the mother of people’s movement. The locals prioritize on conserving their natural and cultural heritage. Uttrakhand had many movements in its history such as, in 1921 Coolie Begar Andolan, in 1930 Tiladi Andolan, in 1974 Chipko Andolan, in 1984 Nasha Nahi Rozgar do Andolan, in 1994 Uttrakhand Rajyapati Andolan.

The inspiring lady, Gaura Devi is famous as Chipko woman. She was born in 1925 in a mediocre family by Narayana Singh of village Lata. At the age of 11, she was married to Meharban Singh. She faced a lot of problems after passing away of her husband when she was 22. She raised her son, Chandra Singh and made him a trader in Indo-China trade of that time. When the trade went shut down in 1962 due to Indo-China war, Chandra Singh earned their livelihood through contractor ship, wool trading and farming. Seeing her child settled, Gaura Devi started helping villagers. Meanwhile in 1972 furious flood hit Alaknanda river due to while people got aware of its precautions. Environmentalist, Chandi Prasad Bhatt stood first to help to control and protect the loss of life and property. After the Indo-China war, Chamoli gained a sight in Indian government and trees were commenced to cut down to make an easier path for soldiers. The affected people realized the importance of steady mountains and opposed to cut them. In 1962, Gaura Devi was elected as the chairman of the same in Reni village. By the time she associated with Chandi Prasa Bhatt, Gobind Singh Rawat, Vaswanand Nautiyal and Hayat Singh who gave her hand in saving the environment. In 1974, deforestation of 2451 trees was printed. On 23 march, a rally was marched in Reni which was lead by Gaura Devi. In the answer, the government promised to pay the settlement against the road that was built. Later, a highly managed conspiracy was planned for 26 march. Everyone was summoned to Chamoli district to get the amount of settlement, stabbing each one the forest department sent labors and contractors to cut down the trees in Reni as every man was present in Chamoli by the temptation presented by the government.

Being ordered by the officials the governmental workers went to swap the trees. On their passing from Sriganga, their activities were witnessed by a little girl who informed about this to Gaura Devi. Now the lady had a great responsibility of nature over her after all the sorrows she had faced in her household life. Collecting all 21 women and children from the village she marched towards the forest. Gaura Devi led the pack with Bati Devi, Mahadevi, Bhusi Devi, Nratya Devi, Lilamati, Uma Devi, Harki Devi, Baali Devi, Pasa Devi, Rukka Devi, Roopsa Devi, Tiladi Devi, Indra Devi. Gaura Devi spoke to the labors who were cooking their food, “Brothers, this forest is our mother’s home, it keeps us alive and we run our lives through this. You can have your food and then come along with us. When our husbands return to the village the decision shall be taken only by then”. The contactors tried to scare the ladies but they did not fear. When the contractor held out the gun to scare the ladies, Gaura Devi stood bravely and roared, ”Shoot us and cut our mother’s home”; on this labors were frightened. All the ladies stood up with Gaura Devi and hugged the trees warning cut them too along with the trees. A strong bridge on the bank of Sriganga was broken down by these woman and they scattered on every path of the forest. The government officials even spat on Gaura Devi but failed to break her confidence, on seeing this the contractors went back and they saved the forest.

This movement drew the attentions not only of the political power but also of environment lovers and scientists. On checking the command of Dr. Virendra Kumar government found that due to Raindi forest flood stroke river Alaknanda’s all left side streams Sriganga, Paatal Ganga, Garud Ganga. Preserving the areas that were consuming the water flow of Virhi, Nandakani and the forests of Kuvari mountain was immensely important. Exposing this form of love towards the environment and preserving the forests combating against such power Gaura Devi did superficial work. This emerged her as the Chipko woman from India.

Gaura Devi led many operations against cutting trees to their smuggling. Spending whole life in the forest she kept an updated and modern view and participated as Rural Problems Advisor on Najibabad radio. Her opinions were in the interest of people,she always had a keen interest in the environment and stood in the support of women empowerment. In 1986 she was awarded the first environment-friendly award and was elected as the chairman of Dasheli Gram Swarajya Mandal over 30 other women groups.

The godly soul passed away on 4 July 1991, at the age of 66. Gaura Devi efforts and sacrifices prove that women can achieve anything by standing together.the greatest example of which can be witnessed by the world fame of Chipko Movement.  

 

 

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