18 March 2014
Human Banner in Mahan Forest © Greenpeace
Many people say that they can sit near the seashore forever without getting bored. Maybe not forever, but yes, I can sit for hours watching the tides and the beautiful view of the sea. That is the beauty of nature.
The Mahan forest, one of the oldest sal forests in Asia can offer you the same feeling. You can sit and gaze at the trees for hours and have that pleasant feeling of being full.
After my visit to Mahan and meeting the villagers I was sure that they won't let their forest be destroyed. The villagers were very affectionate towards the forest. It was as if the forest is their guardian, and now it was their turn to protect it. Maybe their motive behind stopping different companies from cutting down the forest was not to stop global warming but to save the land they were born in, to save the culture they were raised with, and to save the forest which gave them food, shelter and clothing.
It was a matter of pride for me too in Mahan. I was there to protect both the forest and the cause I believed in. I was in the Mahan forest in Madhya Pradesh for the public meeting held on 27th February, 2014 by the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) along with Greenpeace.
It was a big day for the people of MSS because more people were going to join the fight to save the forest. The leaders of MSS were eagerly waiting for the day, and had been mobilising people in different villages for the last 10 to 15 days before the event.
Even though I couldn't see the Mahan forest on the first day of my visit I was able to meet a few strong leaders of MSS like Bechainlalji, Kripanathji and a few others. I also saw the Rs. 5,000-crore Essar Power Plant which stood in the middle of the Bhandora Village.
During the first day of my visit I accompanied a few leaders to the police station to lodge a complaint as a precautionary measure against those who were threatening some of the MSS leaders from attending the event. What disturbed me was that the police station was inside the Essar compound and we were stopped by Essar's people and were asked to wait until they got permission from the higher authorities to let us go to the police station.
During the next couple of days, we had to shift to Amelia Village where the meeting was planned to take place. Unlike the city, the people in the village cared a lot about their guests and treated us very well. We, along with a few of the villagers, sat in a place in the evening and sang songs, played music and shared our experiences.
During my stay, I learnt about how difficult it is to make the human art involving hundreds of people in the process. It took us a day and a half to make the letters ESSAR QUIT MAHAN.
On the day of the event it was raining in the morning, and there was a time when it appeared that the meeting was going to be cancelled. But Kripanathji and a few other leaders didn't lose their hope and kept saying that the meeting will happen no matter what. Finally, the meeting took place and thousands of people actively participated and took an oath to save the forest at any cost.
It was a very good experience for me to have visited Mahan where I learnt to make a human banner, learnt about the way of life of the villagers and also made some new friends. But I was also sad to learn about the trouble the people of Mahan were going through to be able to live peacefully. The livelihood of many innocent people is at stake just because we need electricity to charge our electronic gadgets and enjoy our luxuries.
Let there be Mahan.