The sound of tribal songs filled the air, Sela - a tribal dance, set the atmosphere for more than 250 devotees from the village; they began offering prasad from the puja of 'Dih Baba' (forest God). Simultaneously, the Mahan Company unfurled their cunning tactics.
As decided earlier in the first meeting of MSS (Mahan Sangharsh Samiti), the jan sangathan (people's organisation) will conduct the puja for their God of the Forest – "Dih Baba" on March 22.
As planned the villagers from 4-5 villages were coordinating this event. They were very excited and enthusiastic about this auspicious day as this was the very first event of the jan sangathan. They passed the news about the puja to most of the people in the five villages also spreading the message about the motivation and reason behind this puja of Dih Baba.
While, the whole sanghathan was busy making preparations to conduct the puja successfully, a group from the Mahan Company was planning to sabotage this event.
But this fact made the puja even more interesting. People from the Mahan Company with their agents in villages announced an Akhand Kirtan (a continuous puja for two days) and Bhandara (food fest) at the same place and on the same dates, March 21 and 22.
When this news broke out in the five villages the villagers became quite worried. They held couple of meetings to discuss this new development and decided to continue with the puja as planned. They conducted small meetings in the villages and informed everyone about the Mahan Company's filthy tactics. Actually this gave a good push to the Sanghathan karyakartas.
On 22nd March, villagers decided they will gather at a place for a meeting before leaving for the Puja together in a big group. When the Greenpeace team reached the puja venue, we saw many people had already started doing Sela, the tribal dance and singing songs. When everyone gathered there, villagers decided to leave for the Puja.
As we headed towards the venue of the puja we could hear bhajans being played by the Mahan Company people at a very high volume. When we reached the Temple of Dih Baba, we saw 20-25 company people and agents sitting in one small tent just next to Dih Baba's place, chanting kirtan. There were more than 100 villagers sitting on the other side, waiting for us!
At that moment I thanked the efforts of the Sanghathan karyakartas and thanked God for his blessings. This proved to us that the villagers were no longer ready to get influenced by food, liquor and the company's pressure tactics as they understood what their true intentions.
The crowd of more than 250 villagers including women from villages attended the puja and offered prasad to Dih Baba. Everyone took five rounds around Dih Baba, placed their offerings and sat down to sing songs and villagers did the Sela again.
The villagers were enthusiastic, happy and motivated and they could sense the small victory in this puja. On the other hand I could see the shocked and pale faces of the company's people. They couldn't believe that their notorious plan had failed!
The Sanghathan left no stone unturned to receive the blessing from Dih Baba, for the fight which has already started to save their forest and protect their forest rights. Sanghathan karyakartas coordinated this event successfully and peacefully. The Sanghathan has also decided the date for their second monthly meeting - April 7 2013. I'm sure everyone will give their best to make the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti a bigger success.
Akshay Gupta is a Climate Campaigner with Greenpeace India