Askot-Arakot Abhiyan a study of changes in Uttarakhand

Villagers with participants of the fifth Askot-Arakot Abhiyan.– Photo: Special Arrangement

Villagers with participants of the fifth Askot-Arakot Abhiyan.– Photo: Special Arrangement  

The Askot-Arakot Abhiyan – a people’s initiative to study changes in Uttarakhand every 10 years – concluded in Aarakot, thus, continuing a five-decade-old tradition of understanding the people and the villages in the State.

The Abhiyan whose logo reads: ‘Apne gaon ko tum jano, apne logon ko pehechano’, started at Pangu (on India-Nepal border) on May 25, proceeded through Askot and concluded at Arakot (on Uttarakhand-Himachal Pradesh border) on July 8.

The journey began in 1974 with environmental activist Sunderlal Bahuguna advising historian Shekhar Pathak, Chipko activist Shamsher Singh Bisht, and Kunwar Prasun and Pratap Shikhar, all of whom were college students then, to take up the journey.

The subsequent yatras under the Askot-Arakot Abhiyan were taken in 1984, 1994, 2004, and 2014; all of which were organised by the People’s Association for Himalaya Area Research (PAHAR), a research oriented non-profit organisation that studies the Himalayan ecology and presents its findings in the form of a compilation called Pahar.

“[Noted environmental activist] Chandi Prasad Bhatt participated in the yatra for a few days and he called it a mobile university,” Mr. Pathak said.

Mr. Bhatt’s comment was apt for the 45 day trek over 1,150 kilometres that covered more than 350 villages, 35 rivers, 16 bugyals, pilgrimage routes, tribal areas, eight regions that witnessed the initiation of the Chipko Andolan, and several valleys affected by floods, landslides, and earthquakes over the years.

While more than 200 people participated in the yatra in different phases, six people including Mr. Pathak took the complete journey that saw participation from individuals including researchers, historians, people from the media and other organisations, and activists.

Girija Pande, a noted history professor in the region who also participated in the yatra, said: “Uttarakhand Andolan and demand for statehood was the issue when I participated in the yatra in the 1994. In the 2004 we wanted to see how the State was shaping up after gaining Statehood. Now, 10 years later, the political situation seems to have left the State directionless.”

Kamal Joshi, a consistent participant of the yatra and an ardent photographer said: “This yatra saw participation from 18 to 86-year-olds.”

Mr. Joshi said mobile connectivity issues with border areas sans local networks, problems related to better education, road connectivity, hospitals without doctors and medicines, migration, and dying agricultural practices were commonplace in most of the villages that were visited.

All the participants would compile the collected data which would later appear in the journal Pahar, Mr. Pathak said.

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