29 July 2014
Peaceful Forest Protest in India © Udit kulshrestha / Greenpeace
It was a serious case of déjà vu! The knocks on the door of the guesthouse after midnight began just like the last time on May 8 when police barged in to arrest my Greenpeace colleagues on false pretexts.
This time around there were five activists staying at the guesthouse including two female volunteers. Around midnight, 10-11 policemen and two police women entered the guest house. Earlier in the day they had already confiscated our signal booster, solar panels and batteries in Amelia village where the Gram Sabha is to be held for no logical reason. On asking them to show us their search warrants they said they did not need any warrant for certain kinds of cases and proceeded to search all the rooms. They questioned us in detail about what each of us was doing in Mahan and we replied to all their questions. They also refused to talk to us in the guesthouse and made three of us including me walk downstairs to talk to them. We spoke to them at length till around 1:30am. They accused us of being a nuisance to the police and administration in the region and said that we were inciting villagers in Mahan. They then accompanied me back to the guesthouse to search it again. They also seized all our cameras and looked through them. Since they didn't find anything, they returned the cameras.
The police then proceeded to arrest two of my colleagues and asked me to sign two documents - one was an arrest memo that stated that two people were being arrested and the second memo stated that they did not find any problematic evidence in the guesthouse.
We are still trying to find out what our colleagues are being charged with since they have been held in the police station since 1:30 am with no information given on what the reason for their arrest is. As of 11:35 am, our team was told by the police that they will take another two hours at least to frame charges.
It is clear that pressure is building on the company because of the people's movement to save Mahan and they are trying everything with the help of the administration to silence, intimidate and threaten everyone involved in working to save Mahan. However, this will not stop me. The resolve in each of us working on the ground in Mahan is as strong as ever and we echo the people of Mahan in saying - Ladengey! Jeetengey! Zindabad!
Vivek Goyal is an activist with Greenpeace India.