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People's Movements in Uttarakahnd: Culture, Conflict and Development
Annpurna Nautiyal, 1/1/2012

In the present era of integration; globalization; and economic, social, cultural and political fluidity; one finds a close connection between development and people’s movements. The variance in the perspectives on development of governmental agencies and the people concerned often leads to dissatisfaction among the people because they feel development has been imposed on them without considering their priorities and needs. The lopsided attitude of planners and the inefficient handling and implementation of developmental policies further complicates the situation and generally such developmental policies are seen as part of the political agenda of the political parties.

Such a scenario of development has been prevailing in India since independence with the result being in place of equal growth and progress in all regions and sectors India’s problems have multiplied. The uneven development and disparities have divided India in to parts: An India (Bharat) that lives in villages and slums and an India that lives in urban area.

The internal discords, socio-political unrest, stresses and tensions related to the economic, social, political, demographic, developmental, ecological, and the gap between the rich and poor, are not only increasing militancy and frustration in the different regions but also motivating people’s movements. There is also a resurgence of regional and sub-regional identities in a manner, not imaginable 60 years ago.

Though as a pluralistic society and polity, India is able to accommodate the various regional and sub-regional identities and cultures but these pressures cannot be ignored as the dissatisfaction of the units could be dangerous for the federal states like India. In view of this the challenges for India is to frame a developmental policy which could fulfill people’s aspiration about development because the continuous dissatisfaction of the people and the problems of underdevelopment of the region can prove costly for the safety and well being of the Indian union.

If we talk in the context of the Border States of the Indian Union like Uttarakhand we find that even after becoming a state, the lack of proper development, good governance and the big army of unemployed educated youth, are making the people restless. Moreover people are still in the mood of agitation because of the non-resolution of the issue of its permanent capital and lack of economic development. In fact Uttarakhand has been a land of movements as deprivation; inequality, under development, insensitive policies and neglect of the region by the politicians have always provoked the people to stage agitations and movements to voice their concerns and demands. The Chipko Movement for the protection of forests, the Uttarakhand Movement for creation of the hill state, the Anti Liquor movements can be cited as examples.

Interestingly in Uttarakhand the movements have never been caste or class or ethnicity based, with women playing an important role and revolving around the environmental and social considerations. The ongoing cheeno- jhapto movement for the ownership of natural resources among the habitants residing near the reserve forests, the anti liquor movements, the save water and save Ganga movements etc also indicate towards the concern of the people particularly the women as women have a very close connection with forests, water and social welfare. An attempt has been made in the present paper to look into the reasons behind the people’s movements in Uttarakhand and their contribution in connecting the people in the hill society.

Democracy and People’s Movement

People's resentment though in all the political systems is reflected through agitations and movements but in the democracies such outbursts and agitations could be staged with ease as the amount of freedom which is enjoyed by the people in democracies is unmatchable to any other system. People’s movement in democracies are generally the result of the inadequacy of the institutions in providing democratic concrete rights to the people and the people’s faith that the means adopted by the state for the redress of grievances, frustrations are not sufficient.[1] According to Rajini Kothari[2] democracy in India has become a playground for growing corruption, criminalization, repression and intimidation of the people due to which people have started asserting their rights through various struggles and movements. In view of the traits, contradictions and uniqueness of Indian democracy though, Arend Lijphart[3] has termed it as a Puzzle of Democracy yet it is also the democracy which makes India different from the other systems and societies. In the recent years there has been a surge of movements and agitations in all parts of India. In the North East the Son of the Soil agitation to claim the ownership of the resources and residence not only allowed the forceful eviction of the people from other parts of India but also a fresh wave of violence and hatred.

The movement against the security forces staged by the people particularly women also had total support of the community as it was related to the self respect of the people of the community. The Narmada Bachao Andolan against the Narmada Dam by the tribal people and inhabitants under the leadership of social activists Medha Patakar has attracted the attention of all. This particular movement has not only united the people but also educated them towards the malice of displacement, resources and deprivation. There are many other examples of people's movement in India which were organised to raise the concerns by the affected and deprived people. Uttarakhand has also witnessed several movements by its people which were largely staged against the insensitive policies of the governments, neglect of the region in terms of development and infrastructure facilities, displacements, environmental degradation etc. Actually Uttarakhand which is popularly known as the abode of God has also been famous as a land of mass movements, the most famous being Chipko and the Uttarakhand movement.

But interestingly despite the seriousness and intensity of the cause the movements have largely been peaceful and non violent. The adoption of peaceful and Gandhian means for voicing the concerns and anxieties not only reflects the traits, simplicity of character and peaceful nature of the people of this Dev Bhoomi but also the impact of Gandhian philosophy on them. The focus of the movements or the people’s worries has largely centred on the problems of development and insensitive governmental policies towards the people and region. Actually there is a close connection between deprivation and movement because the capacity of the deprived people to assess the conditions of the privileged class as well as the realization among the people that they are capable of doing something to undo the deprivation encourages them to stage protest and movements.[4]

In Uttarakhand such realization among the people is very deep rooted due to which it has seen many people’s movements. As a matter of fact Uttarakhand, the 27th state of the Indian Union was created in November 2000 because of the people’s mass movement which was the result of the long neglect of the region and problems of under development. Uttarakhand consists of the two hill areas Garhwal and Kumaun and some adjoining plain areas. Out of the 13 districts of Uttarakhand Uttarkashi, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Tehri, Dehradun, Pauri Garhwal and Haridwar are in Garhwal division and Pithoragarh, Champawat, Almora, Bageshwar, Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar are in Kumaun division. In Garhwal Division Hardwar and some areas of Dehradun and in Kumaun Division some areas of Nainital and Udham Sigh Nagar fall in the plain areas. Tibet to the North, Nepal to the East and Himachal and Uttar Pradesh to the West border this area.

Only 13 percent land in Uttarakhand is suitable for agriculture as steep and snow covered mountains and forests cover almost 66 percent of the land area. Although the mainstay of the 75 percent people is agriculture but the agriculture is highly unproductive due to the small and scattered landholdings and lack of irrigation facilities. Agriculture in the hills is mostly rain fed. As the terrain is largely mountainous hence, the hill areas are also deprived of the industrial development which otherwise can be a major source of employment. Therefore, in the absence of many employment avenues the rate of migration of the male population to the plain areas is very high and has converted the hill economy in to money order economy. Nearly 80 percent population of Uttarakhand region is rural and most of the areas are not only economically backward but also different from the plain areas from the point of view of culture, language and political history etc. The world famous four holy shrines; Gangorti, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath are also located in this area. There are 49 Tahseals and 95 blocks in Uttarakhand and most of the districts are still struggling for development, infrastructural facilities and most of these are not even not connected by rail services. Due to the poor condition of roads and communication net work some of the areas are still backward in terms of facilities like schools, medical facilities, water, electricity etc. There are schools but without proper building, facilities and teachers, there are hospitals but without doctors, medicines and equipments.

In view of this, the main agenda of the government is how to provide basic facilities to all and to fulfill the aspirations of its people as well as the goal of development without any hindrance.

Uttarakhand: An Illusion

Since 80 percent population of Uttarakhand is rural therefore, it is said that Uttarakhand’s soul lives in the villages. In view of this the target of the real development cannot be achieved fully unless all the remotely situated villages are equipped with facilities and brought into the mainstream. A large section of the society believes that there is a need to endorse the Gandhian idea of the self-sufficient village republics in Uttarakhand because majority of the population still lives in villages and agriculture is their mainstay. The development of all the remotely situated villages, which are so far cut off from the mainstream and deprived of the basic facilities, would be the only barometer of development in Uttarakhand. The motorable roads, good links of communication, employment for the youth nearer their homes, check on migration, markets to fulfill the needs, uninterrupted supply of water and electricity, timely and sufficient supply of cooking gas, effective public health system, schools and good educational institutions are some of the facilities that the people generally aspire from their state. Any political system that believes in people’s empowerment therefore should be more concerned about people’s welfare and proper use of resources for providing basic education, health care, and social services to satisfy their needs. People feel satisfied and happy and their efficiency and capacity to work also increases if these basic facilities are available to them without any hassle.

Actually people's satisfaction is directly related to their happiness, efficiency and capacity to work. There are clear examples that the societies where people are not bothered about the availability of the basic facilities have registered immense growth and progress, but on the other hand in the societies where people are deprived of the basic facilities agitations and movements have become the most sought after means for registering their anger towards the policy makers or government. Uttarakhand presents an example where the denial of basic facilities, underdevelopment, poor infrastructural facilities, lopsided policies, backwardness of the area, lack of the proper governance, resentment among the masses became the catalyst for a movement for demanding a new hill state through 1994 onwards. Actually, the concept of development, which aims towards the protection of rights and freedom of all and participation by the poorest people in the development process, has been missing in Uttarakhand. As development is not a matter of charity or of administrative discretion rather a duty of the political system therefore denial of the right of development is considered a violation of human rights of the people. In view of such concept of development it is not only the duty of a state to plan policies accordingly but also to seek people’s participation in developmental process to know their perception about the settlement of their problems. Unfortunately, the lack of involvement of the people in the developmental process in Uttrakahnd since the beginning has made it difficult to realize the goal of sustainable development, which besides working for the preservation of the environment for the future generations and maintaining a balance between economy and ecology[5] also aims towards the employment creation, equitable distribution of resources, economic self reliance at the community level, equity and justice in social field, full participation of people in the polity, development of environmentally sensitive and economically productive agriculture and industrial system etc.[6]

In Uttarakhand such development is still not visible therefore people are showing their resentment and dissatisfaction in various forms. There is no denying the fact that efforts are being made or policies to overcome the problems are also being made but it is also being observed that if policies are prepared the implementation of the policies is never up to the mark therefore the situation largely remains same. The inefficient handling of the policies and weak implementation has failed to produce the desired effects. Due to this Uttarakhand has still remained an illusion as far as development of the remote areas is concerned. It is still divided into two parts: Urban towns and remote village areas. The urban towns have access to transport, communication, schools, health, water and electricity in a reasonably sufficient manner but the rural and remote villages still do not have access to these basic facilities. Most of the good hospitals with specialist are situated in the urban areas and the people living in the remote hill areas of Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh, Champawat and Bageshwar districts have to trudge a distance of at least 70 to 100 km to get medical care in the hospitals situated in the urban areas. The schools also suffer due to the crunch of the infrastructure facilities in terms of building or teacher as due to the remoteness of the areas and geographical difficulties generally the teachers show their disinterest to work in such areas. It shows that the basic facilities still are not sufficient and far away from the reach of the people living in the remote areas. The model of Liotta and James F. Miskel’s “earthlights”[7] image map taken from the satellite which measures development and progress through the brightness of city lights as viewed from the satellite and the gray areas or reverse through darkness or unlit areas could also be useful in describing the contours of development in Uttarakhand.

According to this model democracy, economic development, good governance, people’s participation and satisfaction in Uttarakhand could be an indicator of the earthlight image or brightness or progress of the region. The lack of it would signal the darkness or backwardness or under development and problem areas which have a potential of disturbing other areas also by their problems. If the development is measured through the bright and lit areas in Uttarakhand then one would find that most of the remote hill areas in both Garhwal and Kumaun regions are still dark and struggling hard to become the bright or lit areas. Their struggle for development is still unabated and the theory of trickling down the benefits has also not worked to the advantage and progress of all. In view of this development in Uttarakhand as per the expectation and definition of the people is still absent and therefore, people’s dejection is reflected through their disinterest towards such development and frustration comes out through agitations and movements. Interestingly it is also a reality that most of the demands of the people of the hill areas have been settled through movements only therefore it has also promoted a tendency among the people for frequently staging agitations, movements, strikes, bandhs, dharanas and pradarshans for their demands and concerns. The people in order to solve their problems have generally staged three types of movements: Social movements, Environmental or movements related to the Conservation of Resources, and political movements. The anti- liquor agitations belong to the first category, the Chipko Movement, Maiti Andolan, Cheeno Jhapto and the anti dam and hydro electric projects in the second category and the Uttarakhand movement fall in the third category. It is also noteworthy that in all the movements the women component have not only played a key role but in some of the movements they have played even a leadership role also.

Brief Background of the People's Movements

Actually the feeling of neglect and apathy in terms of development and policy formation has always been felt by the people of Uttarakahnd and to voice their concerns they have resorted to movements many times. As stated above women have always played a very important role in all the movements. Actually it is the women of the hill areas that have acted as a backbone of not only of the hill economy but also the movements. Interestingly the women of the hill areas being the victims of gender disparity and deprivations, living in a very hostile terrain with difficult life style and heavy workload have been the torch bearer of all the socio- political movements. The women's sense of welfare, social concerns, responsibility, coordination, tolerance and toughness of the character has allowed them to take up such roles. Before discussing the impact of these movements on the people and polity it is necessary to give a brief account of the major movements of the people of Uttarakhand and the reasons and nature of people's participation in these movements.

The Anti-Liquor Agitations

The anti-liquor agitations during the 1970s saw the participation of thousands of villagers, mostly women under the leadership of Sarvodaya workers, to oppose the widespread distillation and sale of liquor. Processions and the picketing of liquor were organized and several women were arrested for defying prohibitory orders. Due to the pressures the government imposed a partial prohibition on the occasion of the Gandhi centenary but soon the sales again started which led to a fresh wave of dharnas, bandhs and strikes. To make the government understand their problems during the same time the demand for the establishment of institutions of higher education and creation of Uttarakhand state were also raised. The student unrest and strikes engulfed the whole area and ultimately the then chief minister of UP HN Bahuguna decided to establish Garhwal and Kumaun Universities for the two divisions of Uttarakhand and also hill development directorate. This pacified the movement to an extent however during the 1980 s also the people under the flag and slogan“Nasha Nahi Rijgar Do” of the Uttarakhand Sangarsh Wahini continued their protest against the liquor policy of the government. The anti liquor agitations reflected people's anger towards the insensitive policy of the government which was responsible for the decline in values and also making the young generation alcohol addicts. Actually the anti liquor agitations are still going on in the hill because despite the socio-economic problems the government by imposing a blanket ban on the sale of liquor do not want to loose the heavy revenue received by its sale.

These agitations can be cited as an example of the caring attitude of the women because they are the one who are forcing the closer of the wine shops in their areas and asking the government to review its policy. The women know it very well that the consumption of liquor is not only making the present generation addicts but also putting a question mark on the future of the next generation. There is a general saying in the hills about the wide spread impact and consumption of liquor that as the sun sets mostly the male population would be found drunk “Sooraj Ast pahar mast.” As the menace of liquor consumption is destroying the families and altering the social harmony and peace in Uttarakhand therefore, to save their families and children from this curse the women are actively participating in anti-liquor movements and operations and due to the efforts of women organisations like Mahila Mangal Dal, the liquor mafia has to close their shops in many villages. Women are always more worried about the welfare of their loved ones and even do not hesitate in putting their lives in danger; this can be assessed from their participation in some other important movements in Uttarakhand.

The Chipko Movement

The Chipko movement during the seventies though was not a feminist or environmental movement but protest of the women was directed against the denial of the rights on the forest to the local people. The cause of the frustration of the people was the policy of the Government of depriving the local people of the right of cutting trees even for personal use or for preparing agricultural tools but providing such right to the outside firms for commercial use. One such request made by the Sarvodaya workers of the Dasoli Gram Swaraj Sangh for an allotment of ash trees to make agricultural implements in early 1973 was refused by the forest department and they were suggested to use Chir (Pine) trees which were totally unsuitable for the purpose. It was considered discrimination towards the local people because due to living near the nature and forests since ages they took it as their natural right to make use of the forest produce. To oppose such discriminatory policy a novel way to protest and also to save their trees by hugging (Chipko) the trees was evolved and this strategy of hugging (Chipko) the trees gave birth to “Chipko Andolan”.

The real form of chipko protest was seen for the first time in Reni village, inhabited by Bhotiya community and situated near Joshimath, in the Alakananda valley when the government allotted the contract of cutting trees for Reni forest to a commercial firm. The day when men had gone to Chamoli the labours of the contractor taking advantage of the absence of the men arrived in Reni for cutting trees. Women in the absence of the men under the leadership of Gaura Devi took the responsibility of protecting their forests by hugging the trees. No amount of force could prevent the women from their stand and through this movement they not only succeeded in saving their forest but an awareness among women for their environment and rights was also generated and in many parts of Uttarakhand the. Chipko experience was repeated by the people. Ultimately a ban of ten years on cutting trees was announced by the government. Actually in the hill areas women have a natural relationship with the forests because most of their needs of water, fuel and fodder are fulfilled through the forests therefore they are found more eager to save the natural resources. In view of this the growing scarcity of resources and realization motivated the women to take up the extreme step of hugging the trees and since then the spirit of Chipko has provided the hill women the much needed courage to stood up and oppose other such policies related not only with environmental issues but social and political issues.[8]

Chipko also exhibited the capacity of integration and eagerness of the women of Garhwal Himalayas to be associated with the various activities. Actually women of the remote areas have always been capable of playing a more dynamic role than men, who in the face of commercialization could be lured for easy money and could also overlook the long term interests of the village economy.[9]

Uttarakhand Movement

The historic Uttarakhand movement of the 1990s which started as a reaction against the reservation policy of the then UP government that extended the 27 percent OBC reservation in the educational institutions also, culminated in the creation of the new hill state. The people opposed the unfair reservation policy because this policy aimed to extend 27 percent OBC reservation for a merely 3 or 4 percent OBC population in the hills. People thought it would even deprive them from the right of education and also the chances of getting employment in the education sector. In view of the limited scope of employment the education sector is very important for the people of hill area and this policy was seen as directly hitting the sources of their livelihood. Initially started by a few students of the Garhwal University the anti reservation movement slowly extended to other parts of Uttarakhand also however, once converted into a movement for Uttarakhand state it spread to all parts of Uttarakhand like a wild fire. The unsympathetic attitude of the then UP government towards the genuine demand of the people converted it into a movement for a separate Uttarakhand state. The concerns of development, equity and justice also motivated the people to become part of this movement. It was a historic movement because there was a time when the entire population was physically or emotionally agitating in a peaceful and non-violent manner. People even in the remotest areas could be seen organising Bandhs, Dharans, Pradarshan, spontaneously to oppose the government polices and to demand Uttarakhand state. The slogans “Aaj Do Aabhi Do Uttarakhand Rajya Do” and “Lar Key Langay Mar key Langay Uttarakhand Rajya Lake Rahingay” aptly reflected their mood and spirit. The women leaving their daily chores behind took to the streets in support of the movement. Interestingly it was also a non political movement for a political demand because not only the politicians were side tracked by the people, but were also forced to follow the course adopted by the masses. In fact it was a people’s movement with little or almost no role for the politicians and political parties.

The women's participation in this movement was so intense that in many remote places the rallies, Bandhs etc were organised solely by the women. During the course of movement the women from the remotest corner of Garhwal Himalayas who were going to stage a protest in Delhi suffered atrocities inflicted by the administration in Muzaffarnagar in the form of molestation, rape etc and some of them sacrificed their lives particularly in Khatima and Mussoriee for the sake of their children and society. In view of their involvement and contribution they were given the status of Matrashakti (mother who is powerful). Unfortunately, the women who had suffered at Muzaffarnagar did not receive a sympathetic treatment from the society and in place of applying a healing touch they were literally treated as out caste. It is ironical that the innocent village women, who were called as Matrashakti during the movement were given such a good prize for their sacrifices and sufferings and it is also unfortunate that after the creation of the Uttarakhand State the women had been sidelined by the political parties and their contribution has also been ignored. But women’s participation in this movement was spontaneous because for the proper development and employment of the youth they considered the creation of a separate state for the hill areas a necessity.

Therefore, through out the movement they were seen organizing meetings, rallies, dharnas etc Uttarakhand movement was such a leaderless and spontaneous movement where the leadership was with a number of Sangarsh Samitis which used to organize the activities and one call from the these samitis was enough to declare Chakka Jam, Bandha, dharana and pradarshan etc. Majority of the people particularly from the remote and inaccessible hill areas believed that their own state would provide a quick solution to their problems and their aspirations and demands related to basic amenities, development and governance would be fulfilled therefore their participation was spontaneous. The mass movement became so intense that the Government had no other alternative except to create a new state for the people of this area. The creation of Uttarakhand was a dream come true for many people, who made all kinds of sacrifices for the cause. But unfortunately even after the creation of state the development concerns are not fully met and the remote areas could not be brought in the national main stream. The politics of votes has made development also a subject of politics as when BJP assumes power opposition of the development agenda of Congress party is followed and the same is repeated when Congress is in power hence development has also become a casualty of the vote politics in Uttarakhand.

Impact of Socio-Political Movements on the People and Polity

The history of movements in Uttarakhand brings out the following facts about the people:

  • Awareness among the people about the socio-political problems
  • Capacity to work in an organized manner
  • Determination to achieve goals
  • Women's interest in socio-political issues despite constraints
  • Concern towards proper use of resources
  • Tendency of taking Leadership role and to stage movements
  • Being continuously in the mood of agitation and movement
  • Tendency to use pressure tactics for everything
  • Emergence of educational institutions as major hub of politics

In view of the above it can be said that though the movements and agitations has instilled a sense of opposing injustice in an organized manner and also a determination to achieve goals which in a way educates and informs the government about the grievances and lacuna in the policies. There are many cases where the government has to cancel or close some schemes through the interference, orders, decisions of the courts on the basis of the PILs like banning the lime stone quarrying in and around Mussoriee or closing the Magnesite and mineral units in Pithoragarh district. But the frequency of protests, agitations and movement for everything and using pressure tactics has also given birth to an activist culture and breed of environmentalist. The number of NGO which runs into several thousands under various names like Himalaya Bacho Sanghtan, Himalayan Environment and Development, Conservation of Resources, Mountain Development, Society for Himalayan Environmental Research, Society of Pollution and Environmental Conservation, Society for Integrated Development of Himalaya, Sarokar’ Janadhar, Parvatiya Jan Kaliyan, Lok Chetna Manch, Himalaya Niwasi etc. and many more speaks for this culture.

It is not surprising that due to this culture a large number of the people can be found in a permanent mood of agitation and associated with the NGO for opposing the government policies. However the presence of so many NGO and activists has also not changed the landscape of development in the hills on the contrary in some cases such activism and movements have also adversely affected the developmental policy. The example of Tehri Dam which took more than twenty years to be completed stands in testimony to this. There is no denying the fact that big dams and various other hydro electric projects in view of the fragile ecology of this area are not suitable for the hills however the development of the area also depends on these projects because except water and forest there is no other natural resource which could be used for revenue generation. Any plan in this direction is likely to affect the fragile eco system of the area. As there is a very thin line of difference between development and destruction therefore this has increased the dilemma of the policy makers as how to proceed with the developmental plans so that there is less pressure on the eco system.

Polity's Response Towards the People's Movements

The people's movements in Uttarakhand provides an idea about the capacity of the people and also a warning to the polity that they can not neglect the demands of the people for a long period and the lack of good governance and deprivation would always create problems for them. However, it has been generally seen that in the wake of protests and movements the speed of the developmental plan or work tends to slow down but the polity tries to complete the projects which are once started. The protest of the people and environmentalists against Tehri dam only slowed down its rate of construction but it could not stop its construction fully. The several hydro electric projects which have been undertaken after the creation of the Uttarakhand state though are being opposed by the people as displacement from the parental land gives birth to different kind of insecurities among the people as well as the big dams are not suitable for the hill areas. But the government not only ignores the concern of the people but tries to pacify them on the basis of socio-political surveys done before the constructions.

This also raises a question as when the people's concern is related to such important issues why the government follows different policies and sometimes also adopts a confrontational stand towards the people. The reports of the surveys carried out to quantify the affects of displacement on the socio-economic and cultural aspect on the people. Therefore, the people's point of view are never made public. A kind of secrecy in the initiation and implementation of the development plans is always seen. The transparency which is the soul of a democratic system is ignored in order to satisfy the vested interests. These discrepancies come to the light once the government of the ruling party is thrown out of the power and the incumbent government finds great interest in bringing out the follies of the predecessors. But is has also been noticed that some times on account of the blame game of the political parties and the pressures of people’s agitation the right moves are also aborted and the situation remains same.

However, in most of the cases the polity generally tends to adopt an indifferent attitude towards people’s concerns which allows the people to believe that their concerns and demands would not be taken seriously unless there is strong movement for this. The Chipko and Uttarakhand movement though provide an example of the success of the people’s movement yet there are other issues on which the government has yet to take a decision. The polity also tends to hand over any controversial issue to a commission which is generally constituted to dilute the seriousness of any issue or to pacify the people. The issue of Uttarakhand’s capital is such an issue which was handed over to a commission and even after the submission of the report and ten years of the establishment of Uttarakhand no action has been taken by the  various governments. As no government whether BJP or Congress is interested to shift the capital from Dehradun to deep hills therefore this dillydallying tactics has given the governments whether of BJP or Congress party a breather. The sarvodaya leader Shri Sunder Lal Bahuguna who along with his followers was protesting against the construction of Tehri dam has to leave his hut, situated on the bank of river Bhagirathi once the dam’s reservoir begin to expand. His protest could neither save his hut not the functioning of the dam. In view of this it can be said that polity generally tends to sabotage the movements unless they have a wide and intense support of the people. The recent issue of delimitation of the constituencies in Uttarakhand according to which the number of assembly constituencies in the hill areas has been reduced and in the plain areas it has increased.

As per the new delimitation out of the total 70 assembly seats 36 seats would be in three areas of the  plains    and 34 seats would be in the hill areas. Though, people have an idea of the seriousness of the issue because they clearly understand that it would allow the parties who have a presence in the plain areas to acquire a dominant role in the political scene of Uttarakhand on the basis of the fresh allocation of the assembly seats and which would adversely affect the interest of the hill areas. The people are not happy with the role of the political parties and opine that had the political parties of Uttarakhand taken interest the delimitation as in the case of Jharkhand could not be applied on Uttarakhand. People are apprehensive that their voice would loose its weight and the plain areas would dominate the hill areas and its people and due to this the very idea of establishing a hill state would be defeated. Though, this issue has a potential to motivate the people for staging agitation and movements, however, at present they are not in a mood of agitation because they feel that this is a purely political issue and it should be resolved by the political parties in a manner that should satisfy the interest of the people of hill areas.


The above analysis about the nature and reasons of people's movement clearly highlights that like other part of India in Uttarakhand also generally the movements have revolved around the basic concern of development, equity and just allocation of resources. The sources of agitation, movements or protest in most of the cases have been a reaction against governmental policies and response. Since the government generally tends to some times give some relaxation to the people, some times to ignore the demands and in most of the times to adopt the dillydallying attitude therefore, the people’s movements usually take a long time to achieve their objectives. But if the movement becomes intense and wide spread, the government tries to adopt some middle path or accept the demands with some modification. Though, there are always short comings yet, people’s resentment, concerns and grievances are conveyed to the decision makers very strongly by the people’s movement. In democracies these act as a controlling mechanism on the government and therefore, are necessary to keep a check on the government. In a multiethnic, multicultural, multilinguistic society like India the frequency of such movements not only keeps the governments on tenterhook but also provide nuance to chart the course of action for settling the issues.

About the Author

Dr. (Mrs.) Annpurna Nautiyal is Professor and Head of the Department of Political Science, and former Dean of the Faculty of Arts, HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar, Garhwal, Uttarakhand, India


This work has been done under the SAP programme of the University Grants Commission, New Delhi, therefore, the financial assistance provided under this programme is thankfully acknowledged.


1. Ghanshyam Shah, ed. Social Movements and the State (New York: Sage Publications, 2003), 23.

2. Rajini Kothari, Masses, "Classes and the State," in Social Movements and the State, Ghanshyam Shah, ed. (New Delhi: Sage, 2002), 443.

3. Arend Lijphart, "The Puzzle of Indian Democracy: A Consociational Interpretation," American Political Science Review 90, No.2 (June 1996).

4. Ghanshyam Shah, ed. Social Movements and the State (New York: Sage publications, 2003), 21.

5. Teng-Teng, Environmental Security and Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific Region. Toda Institute of Environmental Security and Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific Region, 7.

6. Stephen Viderman, "Sustainable Development, What Is It and How Do We Get There," Current History 92, No. 573 (April 1993), 182.

7. Liotta and James F. Miskel, "Redrawing the Map of the Future," World policy Journal, Spring 2004, 15-21.

8. Annpurna Nautiyal, "Chipko Movement and the Women of Garhwal Himalaya," Gandhian Perspectives IX, No.2 (1996).

9. Ramchandra Guha, "Chipko Social History of an Environmental Movement," in Social Movements and the State, edited by Ghanshyam Shah (New Delhi: Sage, 2002), 443.