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The Contribution of Mira Behn and Sarala Behn to Social and Environmental Transformation in the Indian State of Uttarakhand

Description: The influence of Mohandas K. Gandhi on social and environmental movements in post-colonial India has been widely acknowledged. Yet, the contributions of two European associates of Gandhi, Madeleine Slade and Catherine Mary Heilemann, better known in India as Mira Behn and Sarala Behn, have not received the due attention of the academic community. This dissertation is an examination of the philosophy and social activism of Mira Behn and Sarala Behn and their roles in the evolution of Gandhian philosophy of socioeconomic reconstruction and environmental conservation in the present Indian state of Uttarakhand. Instead of just being acolytes of Gandhi, I argue that these women developed ideas and practices that drew upon from an extensive intellectual terrain that cannot be limited to Gandhi’s work. I delineate the directions in which Gandhian thought and experiments in rural development work evolved through the lives, activism, and written contributions of these two women. Particularly, I examine their influence on social and environmental movements, such as the Chipko and the Anti-Tehri Dam movements, and their roles in promoting grassroots social development and environmental sustainability in the mountain communities of Uttarakhand. Mira Behn and Sarala Behn’s integrative philosophical worldviews present epistemological, sociopolitical, ethical, and metaphysical principles and practices that have local and global significance for understanding interfaith dialog, social justice, and environmental sustainability and thus constitute a useful contribution to the theory and practice of human emancipation in our times.
Date: May 2014
Creator: Mallik, Bidisha
Partner: UNT Libraries