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Chipko movement taught world ahimsa's power: President

New Delhi, July 15 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday conferred Chandi Prasad Bhatt, pioneer of the Chipko movement, with the 2013 Gandhi Peace Prize and said the noted environmentalist has taught the world the power of ahimsa or non-violence.

The president also highlighted India's efforts to preserve Mahatma Gandhi's legacy.

"Ahimsa is not just a method or an instrument. It requires recognition of the humanity of others, including the humanity of those we seek to challenge, including the state," he said.

"Bhatt has not only deepened our understanding of responsibility but also provided an object lesson to the world on the power of ahimsa," Mukherjee added.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Culture and Tourism Minister Shripad Yesso Naik and diplomats from many countries attended the function at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The president also highlighted the culture ministry's continuous efforts to preserve the legacy of the Father of the Nation.

"The ministry has taken two significant and long-lasting initiatives in this regard. In September last year, the Gandhi Heritage Portal was dedicated to the people of India and the world.

"This is an authentic, comprehensive, open source digital archive of Gandhiji's writings and the scholarly work around his ideals," he said.

"It has also launched a five-year mission called the Gandhi Heritage Sites Mission that is mandated with the preservation of building heritage of Gandhiji's life," he said.

Mukherjee also praised the 80-year-old Bhatt for his dedicated, tireless and invaluable work for the conservation of the environment.

"In honouring him, we honour all those countless women and men who became trustees of the nature and who through their embrace expanded our swaraj," he said.

A Ramon Magsaysay Award winner, Bhatt started the Chipko movement in 1973 using the Gandhian method of peaceful and non-violent satyagraha through the act of hugging trees and saving them from being felled.

Mukherjee called this a movement of love against "pulverising greed".

The Gandhi Peace Prize was instituted in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, and is given to individuals and institutions for their contribution towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.

Naik hailed Bhatt's contribution in educating villagers on the need to protect the environment and to create awareness about ecological conservation.

"He was one of the first voices against damage being caused by big dams," he said.

"His life's work is also proof that we should proceed with caution with respect to the Himalayas, a region vital to our culture, history and future development but with sensitivity to the cultural and natural heritage," he added.

Previous recipients of the award include former Tanzanian president Julius K. Nyerere, social worker Baba Amte and late former South African president Nelson Mandela among others.

The award carries a plaque, a citation and an amount of Rs.1 crore.

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Updated Date: Jul 16, 2014 01:30:11 IST