15 May 2014
Peaceful Forest Protest in India © Greenpeace
We rushed to Mahan, as soon as we heard of the arrests of our fellow activists. Three of them - Akshay, Vinit and Vijay Shankarji were granted bail, albeit for a crime they did not commit - but Bechanlalji still continues his fight from the Pachaur jail.
My work with the volunteers in the north zone and the fact that I'm in Mahan for the first time, forced me to compare our work in the cities with the mobilization in villages. Uncomfortable questions about our engagement tactics in the cities made me a little unsure about the impact that we had on the fight for forests and the overall campaign.
After all, what did one photo-op in the city mean, when there was a whole community of thousands in Mahan, constantly braving the threat of being charged with false cases, custodial violence, and losing their forests and livelihoods to the greedy rush for black gold by corporates?
Realization only dawned on me when I interacted with the villagers and MSS activists here. After observing them, it was suddenly crystal clear. If MSS and community members are the brave heart and emotions, volunteers in the cities are the strong, wide shoulders which carry the weight of the movement. The conversation with the villagers, explaining the work of Greenpeace around the world, created a very tangible confidence amongst everyone here, including me, who felt a heightened sense of camaraderie and pride.
We're not just a community of a few hundreds or thousands of villagers trying to save Mahan - we're more than a million voices from all parts of the country! On May 18, the resistance in Mahan will be joined by cities from all parts of the country, and a few corners of the world, showing solidarity with the fight. (As a colleague even pointed out, the representation of Junglistan community from Kashmir is more than any political party :P)
As Essar and Hindalco get ready to mine in Mahan and add to the vicious circle of destroying forests, burning dirty, unsustainable coal and global warming, green warriors in more than 130 cities will be up and ready to echo their resistance against this gross environmental crime. To all my friends who're a part of this iconic movement, I say "Ladenge, Jeetenge".
Sanchita Mahajan is a Public Engagement officer with Greenpeace India.