Gaura Devi (1925 – 1991) was a social activist and a rural women community leader from Uttarakhand, India who played an important role in the Chipko movement in 1970’s .
Gaura Devi was born in 1925 in a village named Lata of Chamoli district in the state of Uttarakhand. She got married at very young age, afer her marraige she moved to a nearby village named Reni by the Alaknanda River. At the age of 22 she was a widow with a child. After her husband death she moved to a new village which was near to the border of Indo-Tibet.
An environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna initially started the Chipko Movement . Gaura Devi became the leader of the Chipko movement in 1974. Gaura Devi was elected to lead the Mahila Mangal Dal (Women’s Welfare Association) in the wake of the Chipko movement. The organization worked towards protecting the forests of the community. On March 25, 1974, she learned from a young girl of the village that a local loggers of the village were logging a tree near the village. People in the village of Reni were told the news that according to government new policy, the government would pay compensation to the people for the land used by the army . Gaura Devi and 27 other women decide to take action against the loggers. She confronted the loggers and demanded that the men shoot her instead of cutting down trees, and she described the forest as “vandevta” (the jungle god) and her maika (mother’s house). Eventually, for the next three or four days Gaura Devi along with other village women’s protect the trees by hugging the trees , despite the insults and intimidation of the armed loggers,she was able to stop the logger’s work . After seeing the bravery of Gaura Devi and other village women’s how they protect the trees who are the important part of thier life other villagers from different villages joined the action with her . After this incident, the Uttar Pradesh government set up a specialized committee to investigate logging issues, and the logging company withdrew its subordinates from Reni. The Commission stated that the Reni Forest is an ecologically sensitive area where trees should not be logged. The Uttar Pradesh government who was in power of that area at that has since banned all logging in areas over 1150 km² for 10 years.
Some other important activist who played an important role in Chipko Andolan or Chipko movement along side Gaura Devi were :
Suraksha Devi, Sudesha Devi, Bachni Devi and Chandi Bhatt, Virushka Devi and others.
Gaura Devi passed away in July 1991, at the age of 66 in Reni village Chamoli.
“Ecology is permanent economy “-Sunderlal Bahuguna