22 April 2014

'We did it.' There's a cheerful ring to this phrase even without the exclaimation mark. Today's edition of the Business Standard in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bhopal and Ahmedabad has a full page ad asking our future government. 'Will you save Mahan's forest from mining?'

It's a special ad on a special day. Earth day is the day we celebrate our planet and everything that's worth preserving on it. The ad is funded by people who want to protect India's forests. Who want to tell the new government that they stand with forests and not those who dig coal.

The forests of Mahan, Madhya Pradesh are on the brink of destruction. Essar, plans to mine coal in these forests which are also one of the oldest Sal forests in our country. People in Mahan are fighting for their rights, livelihoods and forests that mean the world to them. Junglistan - a pan-India movement of people who want to protect forest, stands with them.

Getting this ad out wasn't easy. Within a week of announcing our intention to publish this ad, we received a legal notice from Essar. They didn't want us to take out this ad or any other such communication in the public.

This was an extension of Essar's previous attempts to shut down our communication around the issue of Mahan. Their notice clearly asks for a gag order.

It didn't work. The ad is out, on Earth day exactly as it was supposed to be.

The legal exchanges will continue, perhaps for a very long time. Who knows what the judgment will be. For us, saving Mahan's forest is a struggle bigger than any courtroom will offer.

We will continue talking about protecting Mahan's forests, rights and livelihoods of its people. So that every Earth day we celebrate, begins with 'we did it'.

Show your love for forests. Be Mahan. http://www.junglistan.org/

Swati Mehta is a Greenpeace activist.