Forest Policies and the Seeds of Discord

Uttarakhand has had a long involvement with forest protests, whose latest incarnation was Chipko. Villagers have been reacting primarily to policies of the State, either the hill durbar, the Lucknow authorities, or the government in New Delhi. The following description of forest policies in Kumaun and Garhwal is culled from social historian Ramchandra Guha's book Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya (Oxford. University Press, 1989).

To accommodate the demand for strong timber with which to build the Indian railway network, in 1864, the colonial Government set up a Forest Department. In its wake came the Forest Act of 1865, which asserted the State's monopoly over forests. A comprehensive all-India act was drafted 13 years later, under which forests were divided into two categories: Reserved, to enable timber production, and Protected, where the villagers could exercise their haque-haquooks.

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Himal Southasian