On September 11, 1730, Amrita Devi of Khejrali village of Rajasthan and her three daughters along with 359 villagers laid down their heads to save the trees. Since 2013, this day has been celebrated in the country as the day of sacrifice of those who laid down their lives for the protection of trees and wildlife.
Vadodara office of social forestry observed silence and paid homage to the forest conservation martyrs. On Friday, 11th September forest officers and employees observed a respectful two minute silence and paid homage to the forest rangers who were martyred for the protection of forests and wild animals.
Deputy Conservator Kartik Maharaja said that this program is organized every year on 11th September in their office on the occasion of National Forest Guard Martyr’s Day.
The Ministry of Forests and Environment, Government of India, in a notification issued in 2013, directed that September 11 be celebrated as National Forest Martyrs’ Day. The aim is to applaud the dedication of the forest rangers who sacrificed their lives for the protection of the country’s forests and wildlife.
The history of India is full of stories of heroism of dedication and sacrifice. Also attached to this date is the glorious saga of the warriors of the Bishnoi community of Rajasthan who bowed their heads to protect the trees. Rajasthan is also a land of pride for those who sacrificed their lives for the protection of the region, protection of people and the women’s community. The Bishnoi community is known for its wonderful tree love and love for innocent wildlife.
Dr. Nidhi Dave, Range Forest Officer, Social Forestry Department, while giving information about the above wonderful sacrificial saga said, this area of Rajasthan is known as Khejrali due to the abundance of Khejrali (Shami) trees. It is considered a very sacred tree by the people there and protects them. In September 1730, on the orders of the king of the area, the army prepared to cut down the trees of Khejrali.
There was a huge protest when people were informed. People clung to the trees and showed the readiness of supreme sacrifice first before cut down the trees. Warrior Amrita Devi and her three young daughters bowed their heads to protect the trees. Following him, 359 people of the village sacrificed their lives for the protection of the trees without thinking for a moment.
The king came to know the same and immediately ordered the army to stop the massacre. He gave a heartfelt apology to the community and through copper plate ordered prohibition of deforestation and wildlife violence in populated areas of the Bishnoi community. It is also memorable that Sundarlal Bahuguna launched the Chipko movement in the country to save the forests.
Such a glorious saga of sacrifice for the protection of forest resources and wildlife is rare in history. That is probably why this date of 11th September has been honoured as Forest Guard Martyr’s Day. A forest guard martyr memorial has been erected in the premises of Dehradun Forest Research Institute in the country.
Assistant Forest Conservator Vinod Damore said, Bishnoi heroes from 83 villages had joined the campaign to save the tree. Their motto was to save the tree by giving their head.
This incident of martyrdom for forest protection inspires to become a tree lover, a fan of wildlife. In many parts of the country, this day is celebrated with the National Service Scheme – NSS. The units work together with the Forest Department to make student service personnel become tree lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. It is desirable that this day be widely celebrated in Gujarat.