In the early 1970s, a forest conservation movement in the Himalayas saw people adopt a unique form of protest – they just put their arms around trees to prevent them from being felled. The Chipko Movement, as it began to be called, reverberated around the world.
In a rebirth of sorts, the word “Chipko” now features in a song, titled Chipko Re. It’s a protest against the felling of 3,500 trees in the Aarey forest area in Mumbai’s Goregaon East to build a station and a car shed for the Mumbai Metro.
The area is home to the city’s green cover and also to 77 species of birds, 86 types of butterflies, and 13 species of amphibians, among others. The musical duo of Maati Baani has collaborated with actor-writer Piyush Mishra to create an anthem asking Mumbaikars to understand this potential massacre.
Says Nirali Karthik, one half of Maati Baani: “I have been living in Mumbai for almost ten years, and I was not even aware of the seriousness of this issue till April this year, when my friends started talking about it.”
The video is set in the lush forests of Aarey and features people who are “not actors but actual tree-lovers who feel for the cause,” says Karthik. Chipko Re has a very earthen and modern sound, and melodically segues from Piyush Mishra’s sombre verses to hard-hitting Marathi rap.
Besides the song, there’s also an online petition to gather public support.