While world leaders are engaged in talks to reduce global warming, a village in Rajasthan has taken an initiative in this direction for a few centuries now. The original Chipko Movement was held on 11 September,1730, under the leadership of Bishnoi Ladies. 363 Bishnois including others were mercilessly killed as the Khejri trees were cut to build a palace for the king of Marwar. This sacrifice is noted in golden letters in the history of eco- struggle.
Baap is a part of Badipalli Seed Panchayat Samiti in Jodhpur District on the Indo- Pak border. The All India Jeevanraksha Bishnoi Sabha had organised a conference at Baap Village to discuss the issue of Khejri tree.
Currently, the Rajasthan Govt. is felling Khejri trees for solar projects. Khejadi is known as Apta or Shami and is considered as a sacred tree. Lord Rama had removed his weapons from this tree and won a war with Ravana. As these trees are being cut, the deers seen under these trees are also not to be seen. So the villagers have given a call for a movement to save this Khejri tree.
The entire Bishnoi community has taken up this issue under the leadership of Mahant Bhagwandas. It is believed that more than eight thousand Khejri trees were cut for the solar project. Khejri is considered as a Kalpataru in the deserts of Rajasthan. It is worshiped like a Tulsi i.e. Holy Basil plant. It is given the status of a State tree in Rajasthan.
This plant, Khejri, survives on a minimum quantity of water and it can withstand even in severe summer. Its leaves are fodder for animals. It is called Lungs for the desert. It is said that the people survived on the khejri leaves during the famine of 19 th century. Its flower is known as Meenjhar and it is immortalized in a poem viz Meenjhar by Kanhyalal Setia which has become a part & parcel of folklore of Rajasthan.
The Khejri agitation is a symbol of love for nature by the Bishnoi community. They consider flora & fauna as their kith and kin. Hence their struggle for centuries to save their environment. Their patron Jambhoji Maharaj teaching is “ Sir Kate Rukh Bache, To Bhi Sasta Jaan” meaning a tree saved at the cost of one’s life is a small price. Even today the Bishnoi community follows this sermon both in letter & spirit.
Sunder Lal Bahuguna was inspired in his Chipko Movement by the above epic struggle.The Bishnoi community stood united for innocent animals when the whole establishment was supporting Salman Khan in the BlackBuck hunting case. It is said that Lawrence Bishnoi, involved in Panjabi singer Siddhu Moosewala, is believed to have first threatened Salman in the black buck hunting case. Incidentally this hunting case is also connected with Village Kakani in the same Luni Taluka.
Khejri is also known as Khidirpur, Jhand, Jat, Khar, Kanda and Jammi in different regions of our country. In Maharashtra it is called Apta and it is given as a symbolic gold on the occasion of Dashra or Vijaya Dashami. Arjun had kept his weapons on the Khejadi or Shami tree. Now the Bishnoi or Vaishnav community has taken up arms for an epic ecological battle.