In 1994, to protect the tree falling in Tehri, women tied threads around trees and pledged to safeguard them. Their struggle saved the many evergreen trees in Uttarkashi-Tehri region.
It appears to be a tradition in hills of Uttarakhand that every time government fails to perform their duty honestly, the locals of Uttarakhand stand up to not just save their own rights but also our environment. This time again people of rural areas in Garhwal hills took a stand to conserve the trees which were illegally cut down.
As the name suggests, Raksha Sutra means tying a thread for or of protection. In this Andolan also, women participated in large numbers. This movement began on August 10-11, 1994 when around 300 women gathered to tie threads around trees, pledged to safeguard them and chased away tree-fellers.
It started from the Riyala forest of Tehri located at the height of 10,000 metres. The movement was led by Suresh Bhai by tying the sacred thread—Rakhi around trees, guided by the sentiments as on the festival of Raksha Bandhan. They stood up against the forest officials to oppose the cutting down of trees by the government. Some of the slogans of this movement were:
“Forests survive, the nation survives
Every village thrives”
Despite the ban by government on cutting of trees above 1,000 metres tall, in 1983 for 10 years it was still continued in this hilly region. Between 1993 and 1998, felling of trees were at peak and government was unable to conserve them.
Basically, the movement was started against the nexus of forest mafia and Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation (UPFC). The main culprit was UPFC which came into existence in 1974 and failed to fulfil its objectives. As per enquiry report, the rare species of trees and vegetation are important in higher altitudes as they prevent floods. But, UPFC marked all green regions as dry zones without any supervision from competent officer.
The areas which were highly affected by felling of trees were Churangikhal, Harsil, Haruntha, Adala and Mukhem areas of Uttarakashi-Tehri stretch in Uttarakhand. The movement helped in safeguarding the indigenous tree species such as Mauro, Kail, Buransh and Muranda.
It has been influential in creating awareness among the locals of Uttarkashi-Tehri of Garhwal hills. Due to pressure created by these protesters only, forest officials who were backing the felling of trees had to face dire consequences. The movement that began on August 10-11, 1994 saw women from Tehri and Uttarkashi districts successfully preventing the commercial logging on about 12 lakh hectares in these two districts between 1994 and 2000. It had been very successful in saving the evergreen forests in the watershed areas of Bhagirathi, Yamuna, Bhilangana rivers during the year 1995-96.
Raksha Sutra Andolan also played a significant role in the movement against the setting up of Coca-Cola plant in Chabra village of Dehradun which is in the green forest area.
Even till today, the women of Uttarakhand continue the tradition of tying the Raksha Sutra on the trees.