Haritima Bahuguna (Melbourne) / Saumya Bahuguna (Dehradun)
Dehradun / Melbourne (The Hawk): People from across the country and abroad who paid tribute to Chipko leader late Sundar Lal Bahuguna on World Environment Day have demanded bharat ratna from the Government of India to the late Bahuguna.
The event was organized by Haritima Bahuguna, granddaughter of late Bahuguna, who is a post graduate student studying environmental engineering(currently focused on climate change) in Melbourne University. The session was initiated with a prayer song, Ganga stuti, sung by his second granddaughter, Saumya Bahuguna followed by an introduction to this righteous life by his son, Mr. Pradeep Bahuguna.
In the session he talked out his father saying, " He may not be present with us physically, but he will always stay alive in our thoughts". Shri Sunder Lal Bahuguna devoted his life to nature and did more for us than we could ever imagine. He used to talk about taking minimum from nature and repaying its loan and followed every word of what he preached in life. He stopped eating rice about five decades ago on warns of depleting ground water because the rice plant requires too much water to grow. Similarly, he refrained from having an apple because a large number of trees are cut down for its packaging. He used to say that if we do not reduce our water needs and do not pay more attention towards forest conservation by planting more trees with water conservation capacity, there could be a Third World War for water. In the view of declining agricultural land and growing population, he advised tree cultivation keeping in mind the five F trees and that too broad leaved – food, fiber, fodder, fertilizer and fuel. Terming the big dams as a temporary solution to a permanent problem, he used to say that we have to cover the catchment area of the rivers with dense forests which would not only provide permanent water to the country but also control the flow of rivers. He also came up with the slogan:
"dhaar aench paani
dhaal par daala,
bijli banava khaala-khaala"
Meaning, the Run of the River Scheme should generate electricity, with help of which, water would be made to reach the top area of the mountain.
Talking about his life, Pradeep Bahuguna said that on June 19, 1956, he walked 22 miles from Tehri to set up his hut in Silyara village and retired from politics as soon as he married his life partner Vimla Nautiyal
The hill Navjeevan mandal sanstha started in the hut became the center of Gandhiji's use of non-violence. Many Gandhian activists emerged from here. It was from here that Sunder Lal Bahuguna first launched the Prevention of Untouchability (Harijan entry into the temple), liquor prohibition and then the chipko movement. This is where many Gandhian activists from Uttarakhand came forward. Some of them being Dhoom Singh Negi, Ghanshyam Sailani, Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Dharmanand Nautiyal, Surendra Dutt Bhatt, Bhavani Bhai, Kunwar Prasoon, Vijay Jaddhari, Pratap Shikhar and Pandurang Hegde. They later took part in several movements with the Sunder Lal Bahuguna and independently as well. Pandurang Hegde, who had come to Silyara to do field work of MSW, was so impressed by Sunderlal Bahuguna's philosophy that he launched the Appiko movement to save trees in Karnataka. Sunderlal Bahuguna was also on long fasts during his liquor-prohibition drive , chipko and tehri dam agitation. These include a 74-day fast against Tehri Dam. Sunder lal bahuguna along with his wife made The Silyara Ashram a laboratory of Gandhiji's Gram Swaraj. At the time when there was no tradition of educating girls, he opened a residential school for girls in the ashram. Apart from studies, they were also taught about basic errands along with sewing, spinning and weaving. Apart from that, he used to visit the village in the evening with the aim of teaching women in their homes. He also imposed a liquor ban in the village with the help of the women.
During his travels, Sundar Lal Bahuguna closely understood the consequences of forest destruction and the benefits of forest preservation. He observed that trees have the ability to bind soil and conserve water. For the British (who spread the Pines in the hill) and the forest department it was associated with, the forests were only a source of wood, Lisa and trading.
He believed that the first use of forests should be for the people living nearby so the food, grass, wood and fodder could be easily available to them. He said that the real benefits of forests are soil, air and water. This thinking later led to the slogans of the Chipko movement:
"What do the forest bear,
Soil, water and pure air
Soil, water and pure air
Are the basis of life."
To pay his respects to the villagers who were martyred in Tiladi, Barkot fighting for forest rights on 30 May 1967, he decided to declare 30th May as forest day. For this, he appealed to everyone to join him besides his Sarvodayi (the title given by Binoba Bhave) colleagues.
In fact, on 30 May 1930, the army of the King (who was in rule during that time) opened fire on the villagers who were meeting on the banks of the Yamuna river in Barkot, in which 17 people were killed. Many people jumped into Yamuna to save their lives and many were swept away. 80 people were put behind bars.
In 1968, he brought out a booklet named Parvatiya vikas aur van neeti (Mountain Development and Forest Policy) to commemorate the day. It said that forest, agriculture, Animal husbandry and cottage industries should provide at least 300 days of employment throughout the year. With the establishment of the Shaheed Smarak (Martyr's memorial) at Tiladi in 1969, Sundar Lal Bahuguna along with his Sarvodayi colleagues took an oath to protect the forest after which he rushed from Garhwal to Kumaon for the successful liquor ban from 1969 to 1971. After the successful movement of 1971 against liquor when the government imposed a liquor ban in the hills, Bahuguna pioneered in the hills with his quest to protect the forests. On 11 December 1972, for a radical change in the forest system, the first procession took place in the town of Purola near Barkot. A large number of villagers attended it. The next day a huge procession took place in Uttarkashi. Janakavi(folk singer) Ghanshyam Sailani and Chandi Prasad Bhatt were also involved in this procession led by Sundar Lal Bahuguna. On the morning of 13 December, my father, along with Chandi Prasad Bhatt and Ghanshyam Sailani left for Gopeshwar in a rented jeep. The trio stayed in the office of Rudraprayag Khadi Commission at night. Here, Ghanshyam Sailani wrote a poem:
"Khada utha bhay bandhu (it's time to be awakened my people)
Ab kattha hola (let's all unite)
Sarkari neeti se janglon bachola…(to protect forests from the government's evil policy)
..Chipka paedon par ab na katyan dya (hug the tree to protect them from axes)
Pahadon ki sampatti ab na lutyan dya" (let's preserve the true wealth of our hills)
This song by Ghanshyam Sailani became the awakening song of the Chiko movement. On 15 December 1972, in the huge procession of Gopeshwar, this song of Sailani first became the song of the people and then the Chipko movement.
While paying homage for himself and the people of the state, Uttarakhand's CM Tirath Singh Rawat said that the life of late Bahuguna has been dedicated to the society and no one can ever forget his sacrifice and dedication. He talked about how Bahuguna launched several movements to create awareness about environmental protection. He always had a sense of sacrifice and dedication towards the society. He guided the country and the world in the field of environment protection.
The Chief Minister said that our efforts will continue to take forward the goals and ideas of late Bahuguna ji towards environment protection.
Medha Patkar of Narmada Bachao Andolan said that we should pay homage to him as well as his work and follow what he preached. She said that it is very important for the country to keep Uttarakhand safe. She appealed to the CM to pay heed to the suggested points of bahuguna otherwise nature will show its corner as a disaster like Kedarnath. She also said that the social service of today's leaders ends by going to politics, but Bahuguna was the first person to leave politics at the peak and make social service the goal of his life.
Right to Livelihood representative Kaza Ovgard shared her memories of meeting Bahugana, who came to Geneva to receive the award, and said that as Bahuguna used to say, we should minimize our needs and take the least from nature so that natural resources can be saved for our future generations.
George James of Texas University, who wrote the book Economics is the Permanent Economy on Bahuguna, said that Bahuguna's philosophy of connecting ecology with spirituality inspired him and he used to visit him every year.
Professor John Stone and his wife Linda Parlene planted saplings in the memory of late Bahugana at Melbourne University. They said that they were inspired by Bahuguna and launched a movement to save the river in Tajinia due to which 500 people were put behind bars.
Acharya Shri Yashi, representative of the Dalai Lama, referred to the simplicity and love of nature of the late Bahuguna. He said that bahuguna used to take action on whatever he said. Former ICFRE DG VK Bahuguna demanded bharat ratna for late Bahuguna which was supported by almost all the speakers.
Throughout the webinar , Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, Assembly Speaker Premchand Agarwal, Cabinet Minister Subodh Uniyal, leader of opposition Indira Hridayesh as their representative, his grandson Sumit Hridayesh, former minister Prasad Naithani, former BIHAR MLA Vidyabhushan Singh, Bharat Bhushan, Press Club of India President Umakant Lakheda , Sunil Pandey, Radha Behn, Founder of APPIko Movement Pandurang Hegde, Bahuguna associate Dhoom Singh Negi, Kulbhushan Upamanyu, Pingalwara Sosyati Chairman Dr Inderjit Kaur, Professor Ajay Garola, SP Singh, Anand Kumar, Suva Lal, Chandra Shekhar, RK Srivastava, RK Sharma, Jayant Vandopadya, Chandra Singh, Indramani Semwal, PS Negi, state agitators Virendra Pokhriyal and Nandita Pokhriyal, Rajendra Aswal, KP Maithani and others paid homage to the late Bahuguna.