Shruti Mahadevan
2 min readJul 10, 2021

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What do forests bear? Soil, water and pure air I Remembering the Chipko Andolan II Part Three

The first protest against ecological destruction began with the sacrifice of a single woman. Her name was Amrita Devi…

The Thar Desert in Rajasthan is a sensitive region. The dry weather does not support much tree cover or vegetation. The Khejri tree is one of the few species found here that is a lifeline to the people here. They provide shade, food, fodder and firewood for the people and animals. The tree is also sacred and revered in the Vedas. Khejari village is home to the Bishnois, who consider it their duty to protect the trees. The time was 1730 and the Maharaja of Jodhpur sent a huge army to cut the trees for firewood. One of the women in the village, Amrita Devi noticed this and rushed to protect the trees. She hugged the trees to defend them and was axed down by the soldier. Her three daughters and the rest of villagers died, protecting the trees. This tragic day is recognised as the first non-violent protest against the destruction of trees. It also is the beggining of conflicts in forest use and management…

Fast forward to British India; the conflict intensified and took new dimensions. The Forest Act of 1927 and the new tenancy laws pushed traditional communities out of forests. Companies, loggers and Forest Bureaucracy conspired to earn profits, at the cost of the natural biodiversity. Silviculture became the norm and the natural tree cover was wiped out, for commercial varieties. This took away the forests natural ability to replenish itself. floods, landslides, soil erosion and loss of fertility, killed the environment and the people who depended upon it for survival..

Watch this space for the fourth and final part of this post…

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Shruti Mahadevan

A freelance content writer and storyteller