When 363 people were slaughtered trying to save their forest

When 363 people were slaughtered trying to save their forest

It’s an unimaginable tragedy that happened in India from the 18th century. More than 350 people they were shot in their attempt to hug her trees forest protect them from the axes of the local lord’s soldiers.

Civil disobedienceTHE Nonviolent resistance, in many cases, it can be effective in improving a situation. For example, his non-violent movements Mahatma Gandhi or his Martin Luther King they marked history, signaling a passive way of reacting.

However, the reactions civil disobedience is effective only against authorities who are susceptible to similar actions of moral suasion; a high level of (responsive) civic society is required and leaders – leaders who have the least respect for the rights of their citizens or leaders with sensitivity and fear of public backlash in case of flagrant violation of these rights. Against rulers who care so much about the administration of justice and humanity to their subjects, the consequences of an act of civil disobedience can prove disastrous and horrific.

Abhai Sikh Rathore was an Indian Maharajah (Raja or Prince was his title) who lived in the 18th century (1702-1749) in the Kingdom of Marwar (in present-day Rajasthan). Abhai Sikh Rathore conspired with his brother to assassinate their father and seize power in 1724. In 1730 the new Maharaja needed timber to build his new palace and the Forest near the village of Yehnan was a good source of needed wood. However, the forest was considered sacred to the locals.

One of the Maharaja’s ministers and his retinue of soldiers arrived in Yehnan and demanded access to the trees in the forest, the Kehri – an acacia-like tree which is a source of life for animals and humans. The villagers refused to hand over their trees to the soldiers, arguing that they were sacred and that their faith forbade them from cutting them down.

Note that the village inhabited by the Bishnoi, followers of a religious sect living in the states of northern India and the Thar desert (Bishnoi means “29” Bish: 20 and Noi: 9 a number symbolizing the 29 codes bequeathed by their religious leader Jamboji. Among the 29 rules including those that protect trees and animals).

“A severed head is worth less than a severed tree”

Maharaja Abhai Sikh Rathore’s men attempted to bribe resident officials, but when the fact became known, it was seen as a gross insult to Bishnoi values ​​and blasphemy, and the leader of the resistance group, Amrita Devi Bishnoi announced that he would rather die than allow a single branch to be cut from their trees. In fact, Amrita and her family hugged the trees trying to protect them with their bodies. Enraged, the Maharaja’s soldiers beheaded Amrita and three of her daughters before starting to cut down the trees.
Amrita’s last words are said to have been, “A severed head is worth less than a felled tree”, and this phrase later became a rallying cry for the Bishnois.

The news of the murder of the three women and for cutting trees spread rapidly among the Bishnoi people of Rajasthan. Residents of 83 villages in the area quickly rushed to Yehnan to protect the trees. After a council of the village elders, it was decided to protect the trees from the volunteers, who would even risk their lives hugging them. The older ones were the first to rush at the roll call and were the first to be shot trying to wrap their bodies around the trunks. The danger of felling was defied by the younger ones, who passionately and silently kissed a tree. And every hug also meant a severed head! A total of 363 Bishnois lost their lives to protect the trees.

And their sacrifice paid off. The Maharaja’s soldiers, exhausted from the massacre, departed and returned to their homes, where they told their ruler of the tragedy they had caused.
Shocked by the passive resistance of the Bishnoi, Abhai Sikh dismissed his men and went to the village himself to apologize for his actions. minister his own, assured that the village would never again be forced to supply the kingdom with timber. The village was later renamed Keherli and the site of the massacre became a place of pilgrimage for the Bishnoi faith.
The Keherley Massacre it inspired the “Chipko” environmental movement, active in the 20th century and aimed at conserving Indian forests.
Every year on September 11, the anniversary of the Keherli Massacre is commemorated in India as National Forest Martyrs Day.

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