“…..Humlog andar hain, theek hai. Kanoon ko haath me hum nahi liye hain. Kanoon ko saath lekar chal rahe hain. Apna hak apni maryada na chore…..” [We are inside (the jail) it’s okay. We have not taken the law in our own hands. We are following the law. Don’t leave your right, your dignity].
The morning after
Today, May 9, some of us were allowed to meet our friends and fellow activists. I was accompanied by Greenpeace campaigner Priya Pillai. Time wasn’t enough to convey everything we wanted to tell them, but at that time we were just happy to see our friends again.
It’s been more than 36 hours since the arrest of the four activists in Mahan. Akshay Gupta, Vinit Gupta, Bechan Lal and Vijay Shankar Singh were arrested at around 12.00am on May 8.
<Read more about how they were arrested here.>
Since then, we’ve spent most of our time around the station premises and courts. It’s tiring but then, when I think of why all of us are here, the sense of fatigue fades away.
On May 8, all the four activists were presented in front of the Sessions court. After that they were sent to judicial custody as charges under sec 392 can only be tried by a District court.
The four activists had been kept separately. They shared their cell with 16-17 people if not more. We gave them clothes, soap, toothbrushes and some fruits. They told us that they’ll also need buckets, to bathe and wash their clothes.
Priya and I told them how people and organisations across the country had sent messages of support for them. How those who are a part of the movement were sad and concerned about their well being.
While these activists wait to follow the due legal process, more and more people from the villages and the nearby cities are moving into the forests. It’s difficult to give an exact count of people in the forest at this time. It could easily be 100 people or more, protesting peacefully to save Mahan’s forests and their livelihoods from being destroyed.
We were told that the District Forest Officer, the Ranger and 50 policemen were going into the forest to break the protest today. Akshay, Bechanlalji, Vijay Shankarji and Vinit were concerned about the movement’s progress. Not being with the community in the forest was making them sad. At the same time they said that them being in jail should not stop the movement.
We were relieved after three of our colleagues were released. But we condemn the continued detention of our colleague and friend, Bechanlal-ji. Peaceful protest is not a crime, and we will continue to demand his release.”
And so the struggle continues, peacefully. Zindabad!
Vivek Goyal is an activist with Greenpeace India.