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

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Mahatma of the Mountains

Mahatma of the Mountains

Sundarlal Bahuguna, who applied Gandhi’s non-violent tools to fight environmental injustice, holds a special place in independent India’s environmental history.

For the longest time in my life, “Sunderlal Bahuguna” was only an answer to the general knowledge question: Name a leader of the Chipko movement. Nothing more, nothing less. But all that changed when, one afternoon in early 2015, I began researching the environmental history of independent India for a book that would, in the coming years, become an all-consuming pursuit.

The story of how independent India went from being a largely underdeveloped, rural country to one of the fastest growing economies in the world, is a spectacular account of development. The relentless pursuit of modernisation gave us many comforts that we take for granted today, but it came at a cost—a ruthless conquest of nature. Nowhere is this as pronounced as in the fragile ecology of mountains where thoughtless deforestation, damming, mining and road building have led to a steady onslaught of horrific natural disasters. So, it is no surprise that modern Indian environmentalism was born in the mountains and led by people like Bahuguna—fervent sons and daughters of the soil who witnessed the destruction and its aftermath at close quarters.

… who will speak for the tree that will be cut?

Who will come forward for the dying river?

Who will protect the mountains?

It is now time to hear the voice of the tree being cut, the voice of the river, the scream of the mountain that is sliding.

—Bahuguna’s speech quoted in Himalaya Mein Mahatma Gandhi ke Sipahi by Khadag Singh Validya (2017)

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Updated On : 12th Jun, 2021

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