I heard of Mahan and came here through the 'YUVA Foundation', which is working for the youth at the grassroots level.
I knew this camp would be a fantastic learning experience. This feeling was reinforced during the camp. The Greenpeace team in Mahan helped us understand the problems faced by the people and informed us about ways in which we could spread awareness and sensitize others like us. I knew that by writing this blog I would help strengthen the villagers' fight to save Mahan's forests from the company's axe.
These forests are the only resources from which the villagers get their water, mahua, tendu (a fruit which tastes like chikoo), sal wood for building their homes and several other vegetables and fruits which they can't do without. Mahan forests are full of mahua and sal trees, both of which are a major source of sustenance for the villagers.
We were here to collect mahua with the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (a large group of villagers who have come together to non-violently fight against the company). By participating in the mahua collection we helped increase the amount of mahua collected by them. This in turn helped them raise more funds.
Within the first 6 days, I learnt how to pick mahua from the forest, how to interact with the villagers and how to understand their problems through principles of social work. I observed that people there had an incredible amount of self-determination, which is helping them fight against the company.
With some help from campaigners, Ali and Akshay, we interacted with people from Budher and Amelia, we even met some people from Khairahi and Bhandora. They told us about how the company has tried to bribe them and threatened them in order to win them over to their side.
Villagers were doubtful that the company would take their forest away in the name of development, which would ultimately cause displacement in the future. That is the situation that has been created in Khairahi.
As days and months went by, the villagers realized that the company would destroy their forests and their livelihood, this eventually lead to the development of the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti.
The fact that all these troubles are man-made is depressing. From a social workers point of view, naturally the government has no right to take forestland, which is a source of livelihood for these villagers.
As a member of the mahua collection camp, I was mentally stimulated to think deeply about such situations. It was a great experience to be able to observe the situation and understand how we can come up with solutions that can be implemented, in order to save the lives of the people of Mahan.
Akash Mala Tamang is a Greenpeace volunteer, who is currently a graduate student of social work.