Police Seize Communication Equipment in Mahan: Mahan Gram Sabha to be Held ‘Behind a Curtain’

Feature story - July 29, 2014
The latest in police excesses in Amelia village, Singrauli district- Madhya Pradesh took place today when a Greenpeace mobile phone signal booster was confiscated by local police today, along with other communication equipment. This is especially ironic since it comes just days after the district collector promised a free and fair Gram Sabha on community consent for Essar and Hindalco's mine, to replace a forged resolution last year.

29 July 2014

'Van Satagrah' Peaceful Protest at the Collectors Office in Singrauli © Ankit Agarwal / Greenpeace


After the arrest of four peaceful Van Satyagrahis in May, this is the second bid to clamp down on the protest against Essar and Hindalco's proposed coal mining project in the forests of Mahan. "How can we trust the promises of a fair Gram Sabha, when the police cut off communication from the rest of the world, and hold the process behind a curtain?" says Priya Pillai, senior campaigner with Greenpeace India and member of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti(MSS).

Pillai further adds, "Like the recent 'leaked' IB report that attacked civil society groups like Greenpeace, this move further shows that authorities are clamping down on perceived threats to corporate interests". Essar itself has filed two lawsuits – in Mumbai and Waidhan, MP – asking the courts to stop Greenpeace and the local communities speaking out against the mine project.

"This is a clear example of how the local police are trying to harass peaceful forest rights activists. We were sent a notice by the police yesterday evening asking us about the mobile booster and the solar panels we had put up in Amelia village. But instead of giving us a chance to respond to the notice, the police shockingly came this morning, confiscating all our basic equipment, which is essential to operate in areas like Mahan which have virtually no electricity and low mobile connectivity," adds Pillai.

This raid comes less than a month after the Jabalpur High Court directed the SP of Singrauli to conduct an inquiry as to why an FIR was not filed on forged Gram Sabha complaint. The court had acted on a writ petition filed by Pillai and issued an order on June 30, asking the SP to conduct an inquiry within seven days and file an FIR if a cognizable offence is found. The petitioner is to be informed in written about the outcome of the inquiry.

"This sudden raid raises rather disturbing questions. Is this raid in reaction to our writ petition in the High Court? Why are the local police trying their best to stop the community of Mahan from communicating with the rest of the world," says Hardayal Singh Gond, resident of Amelia village and member of MSS. It is also noteworthy that while the police have been dragging their feet in filing the FIR for the forged Gram Sabha case, it has been surprisingly prompt in seizing communication equipment and arresting activists.

The fight against the destruction of the forests of Mahan by MSS and Greenpeace India remains undeterred by acts of repression. The peaceful Van Satyagraha continues in order to save the forests of Mahan from the coal mine.