Since its formation in 1979, the UKD has been fighting for change as a grassroots political vehicle of the people. As the first party to take up the statehood issue, the UKD laboured for many years, laying the ground work for what would emerge as a successful movement for all-around development for the long neglected Himalayan region. However, enormous work remains, as the unfulfilled expectations of the Uttarakhandi people call out for the continuation of a regional voice in the politics of the state dominated by national parties and their national priorities.
We have long stressed that only through a new Uttarakhand can a new India be constructed with a renewal of democracy and the human and social rights of its diverse citizens.
The Uttarakhand Kranti Dal was founded on 25 July, 1979, under the chairmanship of the then Vice-Chancellor of Kumaon University, Shri D.D. Pant.
In addition to leading the separate statehood movement by building a large and inclusive identity for the region's diverse peoples, the UKD has since focussed on social justice and balanced development for the Uttarakhand region of the Indian Himalayas.
In 1980, the Jaswant Singh Bisht opened the party's account by winning the UKD's first legislative assembly seat. In 1985, Kashi Singh Airi won in Pithoragarh, becoming the party's longest serving member, winning again in the new Uttaranchal state assembly elections of 2002.
In 1994, the party helped successfully steer a anti-reservation stir into a massive movement for a separate hill state, the only way to address the region's development issues specific to its rugged highland geography.
In 1999, Indramani Badoni, one of the original hunger strikers of 1994 and a long-time stalwart of the UKD breathed his last. The party pledged to take up his work as a tribute to his tireless efforts on behalf of the region.
In 2000, the state of "Uttaranchal" was created. While welcomed as a major victory by the people, the state's creation was only a partial success as the manner in which it was formed completely disregarded the movement that gave it birth.
In the post-statehood period, the UKD has continued to speak out for the rights of the average citizens of state, while pressing to complete the unfinished business of the Uttarakhand Andolan, including defending the state's social and cultural identity as embodied by its true name, Uttarakhand, locating its permanent capital at Gairsain, and fighting for greater grassroots democracy and the basic rights of Uttarakhandi people.
The hilly section, traditionally known as Uttarakhand or Kedarkhand (“North Country” in Sanskrit and renamed as such in December 2006) and geographically described as the Central Himalayas, has occupied various spaces in the imagination of Indians and Westerners alike. Tourists and migrants have flocked to the hills for thousands of years, while the fresh mountain air and cooler climes led to the establishment of several hill stations during the British Raj. Known also as the abode of the gods or “Devbhumi”, Uttarakhand’s primary shrines of Badrinath and Kedarnath draw devotees of Vishnu and Shiva respectively from all over India. Moreover, the source of the Ganga, Yamuna, and other tributaries are found in the state’s extreme north, carving the deep valleys that have characterized much of the region’s rugged terrain.
Uttarakhand’s modern political and cultural identity dates to the medieval principalities of Garhwal in the West and Kumaon in the East. Garhwal was traditionally known as the land of “Garhs” or forts that were first brought under central authority in the 14th century. Kumaon kings also traced their lineage back to early middle ages. Despite centuries of prosperity and consolidation, the constant feuding of these two states and the encroachment of surrounding powers eventually weakened their kingdoms to the extent that they were overrun by the expansionist Gurkha Empire in 1791 and 1803 respectively. Although the Kumaon dynasty came to an end, the Garhwal dynasty was soon reestablished from Tehri as a subordinate state after the brief but bloody Anglo-Gurkha war in 1814-1815. The same war saw the incorporation of Eastern Garhwal and Kumaon into the British Northwestern, and later United Provinces.
By winning the rights over the territorial extent of the region, the British not only gained lucrative trade routes to Tibet, but also the rights over the enormous forest wealth of Uttarakhand. Recruitment into the armed forces from the region also began in earnest, with the Garhwal Rifles gaining international fame for their bravery during the First World War. However, both Garhwal and Kumaon soon joined in the general ferment of the independence struggle, focusing particularly on oppressive forest and forced labour laws. Meanwhile, the independence movement within the Tehri princely state successfully forced its merger with India in 1948.
The post-independence period saw many developments, including the closing of the Indo-Tibetan border due to the India-China War of 1962 and most notably the emergence of the Chipko environmental movement in the 1970s. Political and cultural marginalization within Uttar Pradesh eventually culminated into a mass movement for a separate hill state in 1994. Six years later, this “Uttarakhand Andolan” achieved partial success with the creation of the then named “Uttaranchal” yet balanced development for the highlands, the principal demand of this movement, continues to represent an uphill challenge.