Chapter 7. Rise of Popular Movements

Chipko Movement
• The movement began in two or three villages of Uttarakhand (in 1973) when forest department refused permission to villagers to fell ash trees for making agricultural tools.
• However, forest department allotted same patch of land to a sports manufacturer for commercial use. This enraged villagers, and they protested against move of government.
• The villagers demanded that no forest-exploiting contracts are given to outsiders and local communities have effective control over natural resources like land, water, & forests.
• They wanted government to provide lowcost materials to small industries and ensure development of region without disturbing ecological balance.
• The movement took up economic issues of landless forest workers and asked for guarantees of minimum wage.
• Women’s active participation in Chipko agitation was a very novel aspect of movement.
• The movement achieved a victory when government issued a ban on felling of trees in Himalayan regions for fifteen years until green cover was fully restored.

Dalit Panthers
• Dalit Panthers, a militant organisation of Dalit youth was formed in Maharashtra in 1972.
• Dalit groups were mainly fighting against perpetual caste-based inequalities and material injustices that Dalits faced despite constitutional guarantees of equality and justice.
• Activities of Dalit Panthers, mostly centred around fighting increasing atrocities on Dalits in various parts of State.
• The larger ideological agenda of Panthers was to destroy caste system and build an organisation of all oppressed sections like landless poor peasants and urban industrial workers along with Dalits.
• The movement provided a platform for Daliteducated youth to use their creativity as a protest activity.
• Dalit Panthers got involved in electoral compromises; it underwent many splits, which led to its decline.

Bhartiya Kisan Union
• In January 1988, around twenty thousand farmers had gathered in city of Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. They were protesting against government’s decision to increase electricity rates.
• The farmers camped for about three weeks outside district collector’s office until their demands were fulfilled.
• These agitating farmers were members of Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), an organisation of farmers from western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana regions.
• The BKU demanded higher government floor prices for sugarcane and wheat, abolition of restrictions on interstate movement of farm produce, guaranteed supply of electricity at reasonable rates, waiving of repayments due on loans to farmers, and provision of a government pension for farmers.
• Activities conducted by BKU to pressurize State for accepting its demands included rallies, demonstrations, sit-ins, & jail bharo (courting imprisonment) agitations.
• Another novel aspect of these mobilisations was use of caste linkages of farmers. Most of BKU members belonged to a single community.
• The organisation used traditional caste panchayats of these communities in bringing them together over economic issues.
• The organisation, along with other farmers’ organisations across States, did manage to get some of their economic demands accepted.
• The farmers’ movement became one of most successful social movements of ’eighties’.

Anti Arrack Movement
• In a village in interior of Dubagunta in Nellore district of Andhra Pradesh, women had enrolled in Adult Literacy Drive on a large scale in early nineteen nineties.
• It is during discussion in class that women complained of increased consumption of a locally brewed alcohol arrack by men in their families.
• The habit of alcoholism had taken deep roots among village people and was ruining their physical and mental health.
• It affected rural economy of region. Indebtedness grew with increasing scales of consumption of alcohol, men remained absent from their jobs, and contractors of alcohol engaged in crime for securing their monopoly over arrack trade.
• Women in Nellore came together in spontaneous local initiatives to protest against arrack and forced closure of wine shops.
• This movement in Nellore District slowly spread all over State.
• The slogan of anti-arrack movement was simple — prohibition on sale of arrack.
• The State Government collected huge revenues by way of taxes imposed on sale of arrack, and therefore was not willing to impose a ban.
• Women openly discussed issue of domestic violence. Their movement, for first time, provided a platform to discuss private issues of domestic violence.
• The focus of women’s movement gradually shifted from legal reforms to open social confrontations.
• As a result, movement made demands for equal representation for women in politics during nineties.

Narmada Bachao Aandolan
• An ambitious developmental project was launched in Narmada valley of central India in early eighties.
• The project consisted of 30 big dams, 135 mediumsized and around 3,000 small dams to be constructed on Narmada and its tributaries that flow across three States, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, & Maharashtra.
• Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat and Narmada Sagar Project in Madhya Pradesh were two of most important and biggest, multi-purpose dams planned under project.
• The Narmada Bachao Aandolan, a movement to save Narmada, opposed construction of these dams and questioned nature of ongoing developmental projects in country.
• Initially, movement demanded proper and just rehabilitation of all those who were directly or indirectly affected by project. The movement questioned nature of decision-making processes that go into making of mega-scale developmental projects.
• The NBA insisted that local communities must have a say in such decisions and they should have effective control over natural resources like water, land, & forests.
• A comprehensive National Rehabilitation Policy formed by government in 2003 can be seen as an achievement of movements like NBA.
• The court upheld government’s decision to go ahead with construction of dam while instructing to ensure proper rehabilitation.
• Narmada Bachao Aandolan continued a sustained agitation for more than twenty years.

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