ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Repudiating Chipko Village’s Identity and Existence

Chief Justice Raghvendra Singh Chauhan-led division bench of the High Court of Uttarakhand in its judgment of 14 July 2021 dismissed the petition of villagers of Reini, known for the Chipko movement, expressing doubts about their identity and integrity. Unmindful of the fact that the distressed petitioners had approached the court seeking protection of their lives and ecology, the court penalised them for the “abuse of PIL jurisdiction.” The judiciary and government have continued to ignore the repeated attempts of the people to seek relief and frequent warn-offs in the form of disasters in this region.


A social or environmental movement is hardly ever about its immediate demands alone. Often, it grows more meanings and branches than with what it begins. The process with which it mobilises people and support, the questions it raises, the consciousness and perspectives it builds, and the imaginations it evokes are the residues that live long after the visible action subsides. Thus, even if a movement fails to achieve what it sets out to achieve, it does not remain devoid of value and meaning. Moreover, the attempts at pronouncing it as successful or failed in entirety, while ignoring its many realities, seem inconsequential.

Chipko is one such movement that lives on in its symbolisms and questions it raised about the human–environment relationship in the mountainous region. This is despite the fact that it did not gain what local people as its spearhead desired. The conservation efforts bereft of peoples’ concerns undertaken after Chipko and the development pursued in the form of exploitative and destructive infrastructural projects have led many, for instance, Punetha (2021), to see the movement as having failed in its mission. These subsequent developments in the Chipko region and the consequent disasters have shown repeatedly how the successive governments neglected the essence of the movement, that is, the importance of the symbiotic relation between the villagers and the fragile Himalayan ecology, for both to exist and thrive. And that, to maintain such a relation, the rights of the villagers over the forests and rivers are to be protected, not shortchanged.

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Updated On : 15th Nov, 2021
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