Gaura Devi- a forgotten Indian Shero!
It is mostly said that history forgotten is history repeated, but despite that people often forgets about the past. May be that’s the reason many heroes of our history seeks dust inside the old books of libraries. Victories are remembered, celebrations are remembered, struggle is remembered but sadly the fighters are forgotten. Where on one hand we follow the legacy of Nehru, Gandhi and Bhagat Singh, the females of the nation who sacrificed their life for the better has lost somewhere in the past and just to rewind that nostalgia let’s remember about a forgotten Indian Shero of the Chipko movement- Gaura Devi. But before diving into her story, do you still remember the Chipko movement?
What is Chipko movement?
The Chipko movement refers to a protest happened somewhere between 1970’s against deforestation in the regions of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. It was the forest conservation movement of India. The name of the movement came from “embrace” as the villagers hugged the trees in order to protect them from the contractors who came to cut them down. The Chipko movement was done to preserve the growing deforestation in the nation. Faces like Gaura Devi, Suraksha Devi, Sudesha Devi, Bachni Devi and Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Virushka Devi and many others are remembered whenever we talk about this movement. But today let’s focus on the story of Gaura Devi- a brave lady of India whose story seems to get lost somewhere between the pages of modernity.
The unsung legacy of Guara Devi
“Brothers! This forest is the source of our livelihood. If you destroy it, the mountain will come tumbling down onto our village.” Shouted Gaura Devi on 26th March 1974.
On that day the old woman along with 27 other women and young girls stand head high in front of the forest officials and lumbermen who came to cut down the forest. Gaura Devi was a Gharwali women born in a remote village of Himalayas in 1925. As a child she always helped her mother collect broken branches and twigs for cooking and other purposes. Since childhood Gaura Devi had a great love for the forest. But this love didn’t came out of nowhere but from an incident, when she once asked her mother to cut down a big tree so that they won’t have to collect twigs each day. Her mother replied “The roots of the trees are like hands. They hold the earth to the side of the mountain. They also hold the water from the big rains and from the melting snow. If anyone ever cuts down our brothers and sisters, our village will be washed away.” And since then the young girl had kept the learning.
Gaura Devi became a mother and a widow at the young age of 22. But the strong will of this lady didn’t let her sat inside the home like other women of the time, instead she choose to come out and soon was elected as a president of Mahila Mangala Dal (Women’s Welfare Association). During the Chipko movement, many women under the leadership of Gaura Devi stood tall and vigilant for three days and three nights. All the men of the town had gone out to work and the officials thought there would be no resistance but what they failed to recognize was the women power of the town.
“We are hugging the trees. If you cut the trees down, you will have to hit us with your axes first.” Gaura Devi to the officials.
The officials didn’t cared much and by then had begun to toss abuses and flourish guns at them, while ordering the lumbermen’s to cut down the trees. Maybe they would have thought that guns might scare the women but fortunately that didn’t happened. The undying love of the villagers and her continues struggle made the official relent to leave. The people together saved an enormous number of 2,500 trees from being axed by the officials. When the accounts and report of the incident went out, Gaura Devi received a widespread attention. And as the result, the State government abide with the villagers’ requests and issued a 10-year ban on all commercial deforestation in the area. It was a great Victory not only for the people of the region but also for humanity.
Gaura Devi’s monumental contribution is what made the Chipko Movement grab the world’s attention. Often women of the country seems to get lost amidst the hues of men but few choose to roar like a boss and Gaura Devi was one of them. Her unsung and forgotten story is full of selflessness and bravery. Slowly and steadily let’s start rewinding the brave stories from our history so that we can remember their legacy for a very long time.