In our last post, we cited a few essays which illustrate the pseudo-scientific claims and credentials of Vandana Shiva.
Not many people know that Vandana Shiva was married to a distinguished scientist, Jayanta Bandopadhyaya. They got divorced and their marital dispute reached the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, in Vandana Shiva v. Jayanta Bandopadhyay AIR 199 SC 1149, held that the mother, as much as the father, can be considered a natural guardian of the child. One presumes there was a custody battle, but information is sorely lacking about the circumstances of their divorce and later litigation.
Interestingly, Jayanta B, her ex-husband wrote many scholarly articles debunking her propaganda. One of the foremost claims to fame for Vandana Shiva has been her association with the so-called Chipko movement. Jayanta B systemetically demolishes the various ecofeminist and feminist claims about that movement in his paper: Chipko movement: Of floated myths and flouted realities.
Documented evidences from the movement sources do not indicate any influences of the brand of thinking known as ‘deep ecology’. … On 24 June 1973, the first successful resistance to forest felling at the Mandal forests was based on economics and aimed at obtaining higher allotment of trees for felling to the Dasholi Gram Swarajya Sangh (DGSS), a local Gandhian organisation. On 26 March 1974, the more vociferous yet nonviolent resistance at the Reni forests was triggered off by the news of auction of some local forests for felling to a sports-goods company from the plains. The contract system for forest felling allowed rich contractors from the plains make large profits from fellings in the mountain forests.
In the early literature on Chipko no serious questions were raised about the movement being based on gender conflict. There was no lack of recognition of the fact the issue of forests in the Garhwal and Kumaon Himalaya touches the women much more intensely, than the men. The presence of large number of women in the forest action at Reni, and the largescale participation of the village women have led to some analysts claiming Chipko to be a ‘women’s movement’. Guha (1989) has answered these questions in a substantive manner showing the location of Chipko in the tradition of social movements of the region. However, inspite of that, Shiva (1992), identified Chipko as ‘a women’s movement’, though no activist woman from the movement has made any such claim.
In a magazine Sanctuary, Shiva (1992) declared that ‘one Gaura Devi’ led a group of village women to hug trees. A number of researchers had discussed the Reni action with Gaura Devi. However, there is no documented support to the claim of Shiva. She was neuther present at the spot in Reni, nor she refers to any discussion with Gaura Devi. There has been a media created confusion on the issue of who embraced the trees in Chipko Movement. This has also disturbed the activists of the movement. The spreading of misinformation is taken to comical heights by a Malaysian journalist Fong (1996) who, in an article in The Star wrote that :
“Her (Vandana Shiva’s) name is synonymous with the Chipko Movement (Chipko means embrace) in India, an active anti-logging movement in the 70s and early 80s. To stem environmental destruction, Vandana (Shiva) led thousands of women to embrace (literally) the trees in the Himalayan mountains in their bid to stop logging activities.”
In the characteristic style of sensationalist journalism, Fong (1996) does not provide any date, place, forest area, or villages associated with the incidence he reports. Nor he mentions one name out of the thousands of women that Shiva, reportedly, had led somewhere in the Himalayan mountains. The activists of the Chipko movement were, on one hand, amused at the totally comical nature of Fong’s claim. On the other hand, in a letter of protest to the editor of The Star, they wrote (Jardhari et al. 1996):
“The interview is based on false claims of Vandana Shiva and has angered many… The real activists are so simple that they do not know why Vandana Shiva is reportedly publishing wrong claims about Chipko in the foreign press. We should all stand up against this new green exploitation of the people’s simplicity and courage by clever, greedy and selfish persons like Vandana Shiva.“