Shah, a member of MSS and resident of Amelia village, was one of the four activists, who was jailed for trying to save Mahan forests and was denied bail. Besides this, the supporters also protested against the police for not filing the FIR about the forged Gram Sabha resolution, based on which the final clearance was granted to the Mahan coal block in February this year.
Vijay Shankar Singh, an active MSS member from Amelia village who was jailed recently said, "These tactics of falsely implicating us in cases does not scare us or deter us from continuing our fight. Such attacks make us only more determined to fight for our rights. We demand that Bechanlalji, be released immediately and the FIR on the Gram Sabha forgery case be lodged."
A group of activists guarded the forests of Mahan against any kind of mining activity, while villagers travelled to Waidhan to urge local administrators to act fairly. The peaceful dharna saw the participation of organizations such as Mayur Sanghatan, Kisan Aadivasi Visthapit Ekta Manch, Sarvhit Seva Sansthan, Amrita Seva Sansthan, and Suvidha Seva Sansthan.
Speaking up for the rights of the people of Mahan, Ekta Singh, a member of Kisan Adivasi Visthapit Ekta Manch said, "The administration was meant to serve people, but with industrialization, it has opted to serve the capitalists instead. In the name of development, the administrative authorities actually help corporate companies trample over the rights of tribal families and other indigenous communities. It is very unfortunate but such incidents of police excesses point towards collusion between the local administration, police and officials of big corporate companies. Words like justice, peace, equality and liberty have lost their value."
The state administration has been dragging its feet on the successive complaints of MSS members about the forged Gram Sabha resolution, based on which the central government has granted the final stage forest clearance to Mahan coal block. However, the police made no delay in arresting four Van Satyagrahis from their sleep in a midnight raid earlier this month. While three of the four Satyagrahis were released on bail after a 40-hour ordeal with the police, one of them, Bechanlal Shah, a member of MSS and resident of Amelia village continues to languish in jail.
"The way in which MSS members were arrested on May 8 earlier this month, clearly shows that the police and the administration are using state power to crush the movement against Mahan coal limited. We have been trying to file an FIR against the forged Gram Sabha for the past three months, to which the authorities have turned a deaf ear. But surprisingly, it took them only a day to falsely implicate activists and harass them. This kind of high-handedness by the Madhya Pradesh police is totally unacceptable," says Priya Pillai, senior campaigner with Greenpeace India.
Representing MSS, residents of Amelia along with Priya Pillai have filed a complaint about the forged Gram Sabha resolution in both Mada Thana as well as with the Superintendent of Police. But no action has been taken so far. The collector however has reportedly said that he will look into the matter and even conduct a fresh Gram Sabha if required.
Supporters demanded that the Superintendent of Police must register the FIR against the forged Gram Sabha resolution and free Bechanlal Shah. The peaceful Van Satyagraha in the forests would continue till the final stage forest clearance is rolled back.