Askot-Aarakot Abhiyan (AAA) is a research trip being organised by PAHAR,once in a decade. This abhiyan (movement) started in the year 1974. Sekhar Pathak,who is a founder member of PAHAR and only person to be part of all the AAA since 1974,recalls his days in 1974.
When the talks of Askot Aarakot Abhiyaan was started in January 1974 then we were not very sure about it.We had travelled only to Pindari and Gangotri before that. No one among us was mountaineer or even NCC cadet but that journey (Askot to Aarakot-1974) has changed all of us. In our first such long journey we realised that how less information about real pahar and its village is known to us and our universities but we never realised then, that Askot-Aarakot-Abhiyan would become a once in a decade research expedition.
The history of the ‘Askot Arakot Abhiyan’ can be traced back to 1974, when social workers and students of the HNB Garhwal University undertook the research trip for the first time. It was followed by PAHAR organising the same expedition in 1984 and 1994. So the ‘Abhiyan’ for understanding the dynamics of Himalayan society and environment has now become a routine, once in a decade, affair. In the year 2004, many research students, journalists and writers from various parts of India and other parts of the world participated in this expedition. Many NGOs have also extended help for the ‘Askot Arakot Abhiyan’,including the ‘Dasoli Gram Swaraj Mandal’, Hesco, Harc, ‘Dalyo Ka Dagdya’, ‘Pragtisheel Mahila Manch’ and ‘Uttarakhand Jan Jagrati Sansthan’.
The main aim of these trips is to know more about hills, its villages and their culture. Forest safety, de centralisation, women education, environment and wild life protection, youth migration, ecological imbalance all became the issues which were raised through these trips.
To get the actual feeling of hills one rule was made for these trips that no body would carry any money. The participants solely banks on the facilities provided by the villagers. Food,Shelter,Shoes,Clothes,Umbrellas,Camera,Batteries all provided by the friends. They don’t take government help. As Shekhar Pathak says.
अभियान हेतु प्रश्नावली, पुस्तिकाएं, पोस्टर आदि अनेक संस्थाओं तथा मित्रों ने मिलकर तैयार किये थे। युगवाणी, सहारा समय सहित अनेक प्रतिष्ठित पत्रों ने यात्रा पर अग्रिम ही विशेषांक निकाल दिये थे या विशेष लेख दिये थे। बी.बी.सी. आदि ने भी अभियान की चर्चा फैलाने में योगदान दिया। नैनीताल से पांगू तथा आराकोट से देहरादून या गन्तव्य स्थलों तक भी हमें लोगों के सहयोग ने ही पहुँचाया। हाँ, कैमरे की रील या कैसेट हमें कुछ मित्रों ने दी। कैमरे व्यक्तिगत रूप से लाये गये थे। पहाड़ ने बैनर, पोस्टर, पुस्तिका प्रकाशन, पत्राचार आदि का काम सदा की तरह किया। हाँ, सरकार और उद्योग जगत की स्पॉनसरशिप में हमारी रुचि नहीं थी। ऐसा काम तो सभी कर ही रहे हैं। और इस तरह के अनुदानों के लिए लाईन लगी ही है। हम पेप्सी की शर्ट पहन कर यात्रा नहीं कर सकते थे। अनुदान के दम पर कोई अपने लोगों तक जाय तो यह शर्मनाक है।
Pathak ji says that initially there were doubts in some of the participants mind but fact is that nobody remained hungry during those trips as food and shelter was provided. By that way we could reach to the homes and kitchens of our own fellows and could understand the real Uttarakhand. It was the way of becoming the family member of villagers and get the unconditional love of our own society. For sustenance participants are forced to interact with villagers, hold informal meetings, exchange views and once rapport is establishes one begins feeling the warmth of village culture and realising their joys and sorrows.
The interesting fact about these trips is that all the four trips happened when Uttarakhand was witnessing some new movements.In 1974 Chipko movement has started to bring changes, in 1984 Anti Alcohol movement was echoing in the air, 1994 was witnessing the Uttarakhand State movement and year 2004 was the year of new hopes after the new state formation. Every decade was witnessing some major movement in Uttarakhand which was influencing the lives if its inhabitants.
In 1974 partcipants carried a click third camera and 4-5 reels. In 1984 there were four participants with camera. In 1994 they carried padometer and in 2004 there were digital cameras and even GPS was used.
As the name implies Askot-Aarakot Abhiyan starts from the place called Askot. Specifically it begins from Pangu a small hamlet en route to Kailash Mansarovar in Indo-China-Nepal border in the eastern part of Uttrakhand. The Abhiyan passes through 350 villages, 16 alpine pastures, 20 Kharaks (high altitude grazing fields), 15 zones and 3 valleys affected by earthquake and landslide, 8 initial regions of Chipko movement, 15 Chattees (ancient pilgrimage camping sites) which are now in endangered, state, 5 Himalayan pilgrimage routes, 5 tribal zones and 3 regions of Indo-Tibetan trade activities located in altitude varying from 200 to 3500 meter from main sea level. This ambitious endeavour ends at Aarakot village in Uttarakhand-Himalchal border in the west.
This 1000 kms long Pad Yatra (trip) across Uttarakhand starts on a deliberately chosen occasion, the birthday of a great freedom fighter of the region Sridev Suman who revolted against the tyranny of Tehri Riyasat and gave his life while in 84 days of hunger strike at the age of 29.
During 45 days Yatra people’s perception towards issues of land, water, forest, mining, large dams, health, education, migration , liquor politics, unemployment, communication etc. and their aspiration are assessed. Living condition, changing socio-economic, cultural scenario of mountain societies and impact of globalisation & liberalisation are also examined. Participants also does survey during this trip since 1984.Know thy villages, know thy people was the motto of the Abhiyan in 2004.
|Prasoon, Shekhar Pathak, Pratap Sikhar and Shamsher Bisht during Askot-Aarakot-Abhuyan-1974|
Relaxing after a tough journey.
|AAA-1984 started from Pangu|
AAA members with Gaura-Devi at Reini
|Members addressing villagers|
Other Articles on Askot-Aarakot-Abhiyan (AAA)
Askot Aarakot Abhiyan – Know about this research trip
अस्कोट-आराकोट गीत – Song made by participants during AAA-84