Writing book review on ‘The Unquiet woods by Ramachandra Guha.

Ramachandra Guha was born on 29 April 1958 in Dehra Dun) he is an Indian historian and writer, whose research interests include; environment, social and cricket history. He is also a columnist for The Telegraph and Hindustan Times. His large body of work is highly appreciated by many people and which made him a significant figure in the Indian history studies, and Guha is valued as one of the major historian of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries.


The Unquiet Woods is written by Ramachandra Guha, the book is about the path-breaking study of peasant movements against commercial forest. Which offer a new epilogue that brings the story of Himalayan social protest up to date. The reflecting of the Chipko Movement continues influence in the wider world and in larger scales. A new appendix charts the progress of environmental history in the Indian Himalayan foothill.

This book focuses on lower-class protest in the Indian Himalayas. It has three major aims; its primary focus is on the links between structures of domination and the idioms of social protest. The northern part of Indian especially in Uttarakhand is present as a case study between 1815 t0 1949, it was divided into distinct sociopolitical system. Firstly, the princely state of Tehri Garhwal and the colonial territory of Kumaun; the author examines how these distinct sociopolitical system and the histories of protest in Uttarakhand influence the trajectory of the contemporary social movement, like the Chipko Andolan. Secondly, the major focus is on the linked between competing system of forest used and management ecological decline and agrarians come out with protest. There-by, the focus on the villagers of areas who are affected by forest policies. Finally, while the book core consists of a comparative analysis protest in Tahri Garhwal and Kumaun divisions. It also attempts three additional kinds of comparison. Firstly, its uses the Tehri Garhwal case to develop a theory of customary rebellions in traditional monarchies. Secondly, it uses the Kumaun case to make a larger critique of party centered history nationalism. And arguing that the connections between the peasantry and organized politics are more complex and more surprising than as yet been supposed. Thirdly, it focusses on lower class protest mainly by women and villagers; it compares movements in 20th century Uttarakhand with movements in defended of the Forest Right in the early capitalist Europe. It suggests that the persistence of forest conflicts in the former case and their act of decreasing or reducing forest right were eventually disappearance in the latter is indicative of the ecological limits to fully blown industrialization on the western model in ex-colonial countries. Lastly, the book has 8 (eight) chapters and a subject index, starting from Chapter (one) to Chapter 8 (eight) can be discuss further.

The unquiet Woods: (CHAPTER 1) the book begin with a description of the political history and social structure of Uttarakhan during the initial year of colonial rules and ecological change and peasant resistance in the Himalayas. It is an environmental history dealing with peasant societies in India. The areas of the Himalayas range and those areas of the population which include a vast majority of the people life were immediately effected by the environment, were least studied. Ramachandra Guha notes in the preface to the study that “the relationship between colonialism and ecological decline is neglected by historians of modern India. However they have been rather more aware of the social and political consequences of British rules.

CHAPTER 2 & 3) the linkage of incorporate between forest and agriculture, the management of the forest in the indigenous system. Ramachandra Guha, in his book (the unquiet woods) is largely historical of tracing and responses to interferences in the forest management under British and the independence republic government. Guha is especially interesting on different and continues between the pre and post- independence period. In the earlier, the areas of the forest was left unread traditional rules while the rest were incorporated into the British Raj. He attempt to change this trend by tracing the social and ecological roots of the best known environmental movement like the “Chipko Andolan” in northern part of India.

(CHAPTER 4 & 5) Talk about a regular intervals, the contravention of forest laws represented the most tangible evidence of such protest.  The trajectory of social protest is described in more fully detail way.  The forest law led to the evolution of management strategies of considerable sophisticated which could ensure to sustain out-put of commercially valued timber species. They decided to protest by embracing the trees even if axes split open their stomachs. There-by the chipko movement is an invention of Chandi Prasad Bhatt was born. The movement successded in preventing the sport company from felling a single tree in the Mandal and quickly spread to other region in Uttarakhand. The Reni forest episode in 1974, for examble, in the women of the community alone halted the felling operation of the state wa a landmark even in the history resouces of the chipko movement. According to Guha, the Uttarakhand movement stem from the chipko movement itself; both movement identified the problem as the administration’s facilitication of resources exploitation by external agencies and suggested a solution of local control over natural and political resources.

(CHAPTER 6) The march of commercial forest; the author persuasively argues, the Chipko Movement did not emerge from a vacuum. The author talk about historical Forest Act like, The 1878 Forest Act through which it took over the forests. The Act indroduced scientific forest techniques in forest management to enable sustained timber production; as a result of which the village communities lost their traditional right to the forest and their resources. The state transformation of mixed forest of conifers and broad leaved species into pure stands of commercially valuable conifers production manipulation of a delicate ecosystem leading to ecological degradation of the region. In fear that the village communities would against to rationalized timber production, by continuing to make customary uses of the forest by grazing, lopping and burning of the forest; thereby, the colonial state adopted silvi-cultures techniques, where it manipulated these practices to serve the end of commercial forest. The forest is used for commercial purpose like timbers, woods, and railway road. etc. This lead to erosion of community ownership and social bonds that had regulated the customary use of the forest, as a result, lead to alienation of communities from the nature.

. And (CHAPTER 7 & 8) Guha talk about history of an Environment movement and the Movement found it’s successful in the traditional society and ecology of the region on Uttarakhand, located in the foothill of the Himalaya in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.  The northern part of this region were agrarian hierarchy which was dominated by the landowner, whose land was leased out to cultivators, the peasants of pre-colonial had a direct and symbolic relationship with the king. The king (raja) owned for name sakes; all the land, the cultivators had vested right to the zaminder or landlord and government officials and their forest was exploited by the government for making railway line and timbers. This, Guha claims, has made popular resistance here less subjest to the personal violence as protest has been directed more at government officials without a long term stake in the areas, many of them were driven out from their forest areas through non-violent means by the common people for protection of the forest land. The people carry out a mass movement so called Chipko movement and it has received a great deal of international attention over the last past decades. This movement is carry out in a peaceful way, Gandhian, environmental movement, which ashes forces of the peasants, especially women to stop deforestation through non-violence resistance. “Chipko” which means “to hug”, it has become a model for protecting environmental degradation in the agrarian societies. The people successfully protected the forest through mass movement and gain the great fame all over the country as well as give them a new ideas of unification to live in ecofriendly manner with nature.

In conclusion, Ramachandra Guha’s book mainly talk about the sociopolitical relation toward ecology and environmental management in Uttarakhand and lower Himalayan forest land.  The way he give the detail history of social protest in Uttarakhand is highly informative and insightful. His writing provides the new field of perspective into the foundation and ideologies on the Chipko Movement was based. Guha’s ideas is radical interpretation of chipko as primary battle of survival and mode of exertion of traditional Forest Right for the peasants. The general perspective of a feminist, Gahdhian and environmentalist movement, which provided the social and environmental communities with an opportunity to perceives the Chipko Movement with a fresh successful ideas. In the contemporary context, this book help the readers to understand the total systematic change in the which-ever battle for which they struggle. This movement give them an opportunity to appreciate and inspired by the agents who mobilized mass energies to bring about significant social change. Chipko Movement is one of the most successful environment protection movement carried out by the common peoples in India as well as in the world. And this social movement inspired to the people of an areas to demand a separate state of Uttarakhand. According to Guha, the Uttarakhand movement stemmed from the chipko movement itself, both movement identified the problem as the administration’s facilitation of resources exploitation by external agencies and suggested a solution of local control over natural and political resources. The Unqueit Woods is one of the best book I have ever read on environment and I too belief that protection of the environment is our duties and responsibilities here on earth.


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