22 May 2014

Peaceful Forest Protest in India © Udit kulshrestha / Greenpeace


We spend 15 most important years of life learning about our country and our world. We learnt how much we Indians care about our nature and how strong rule of law is in our country. But what if it all of this was proved to be wrong?

We are taught in school how great our country is. We are told about its diversity where so many cultures and languages become one. How our forefathers fought the world's mightiest power and brought the sun down on the empire on which the sun would never set. All this to give us a free country, where all its children present and future can live happily surrounded by the great Himalayas, land covered with fruit bearing trees. Where thirst will be met by the free flowing rivers.

It's been 67 years since our colonial masters left our shores. And ever since we have come a long way. And I love my country for that but not for the huge skyscrapers we have built or are building. Or the swanky airport terminals we have built. Or the amazing economic growth which has caught the world's attention. But I love my country for what Bankim Chandra Chatterjee had said Sujalam Suphalam, Malayaj Shitalam, Shasya Shayamlam. For the lands and its people and the dreams and ideals on which our country was founded. Not on a religion or a language, but on equality.

But all that went out of the window while coming to Mahan. We are selling off our forests, our water, and our air. Everything under the sun, now even the sun. While I am very pro-business but I have always had some problems with "stealing". Sitting in the Mahan forest in the heart of our great nation I felt stealing is the only word which can best describe how corporates are grabbing our national treasure.

Rather than protecting peoples land the government of Madhya Pradesh is hand in gloves with these Companies. Wasn't the government formed to protect our nation and 'We the people?' And wasn't in thousands years of our history it was a company which colonised us. But I don't remember when the last time a neighbouring country did that to us was? Yet we are doing business with them, this time it is forest and rivers on sale and credit cards are accepted.

First as a history student and then as a renewable energy professional I have read, heard and even seen how the fossil fuel mafia and government is working overtime to trade energy resource. Even the sun, wind and chanda mama are for grabs. Even if tribals and rural populations get displaced. In the name of development everything is justified.

But not anymore because these people have stood up and are fighting back. From Sompeta to Mahan they are united and strong. Using the path which the Father of our Nation showed us. Peaceful protest.

I don't know the way government and companies are earning money whether it is respectful or an insult to Mahatma Gandhi's face on currency notes. But the tribals and the villagers have something, the most powerful weapon that the Father of our Nation had. And that is determination. The company and the government have Ghandhiji's face but these people have his soul and I believe they will win just the way Ghandhiji won over British.

They have laughed at these people, now they are fighting them, and time will come when these people will win.

Abhishek Acharyya is a volunteer with Greenpeace India.