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Mahan Forest Dependants Fight Back Hard

Anshu Kumari for BeyondHeadlines

Vijay Sankar Singh, one of the four members of Mahan Sangarsh Samiti, got released from jail following the bail petition. The charge sheet against him was filed by the Forest department.

He lives in utter poverty and the Mahan forest serves the only source of income for his family. They collect the fire wood, tendu leaf, mahuaa, char, chiraunjhi from the forest environs and sell off for livelihood.

They go to the forest everyday like a sacred ritual. No day ends without visiting the Mahan woodland. Accordingly, Singh and his family are totally against the opening of the coal mines. He is not a loner in this struggle. Almost all families staying in the adjoining areas are against the devastation of the forest.

The tribes and villagers formed an organization, the Mahan Sangharsh Samiti, to oppose the reckless destruction of natural resources. The Samiti resolves to protect the Mahan forest from any damage.

Vijay Sankar Singh was jailed for the first time. He stressed: “hume kitne baar berenge, hum tayar hai, wo hmko suli par chadha de, hum tayar hai lakin hum apna jungal nhi chhorenge” (How many times will they imprison us, We are ready , We are ready to be hanged, But We shall not give up on our forest).

Numerous questions were targeted at him, including this one: Will you quit your decision now, after being jailed? He truthfully said: “I am not going to scatter; I know they are urban, educated men, they are very powerful but I will not give them my land and forest. Why don’t they understand? The forest is everything for us; we can’t give this for any price. I requested these companies to take my life away but not the forest. I feel too strong and motivated after coming from the jail.”

He roars the slogan”jab tak jail m chana rhega, aana jana laga rhega (Till there is Chickpea in jail, we will continue to be in and out).

His colleagues show keen interest in his journey to the jail. The villagers sit together to discuss the issue and related trivia. Nobody fears the jail anymore. They are in no mood to negotiate for any compensation. They unanimously maintain ‘our forest our right’.

When the talks of compensation surface, the enthused villagers begin to sing, ‘purkho se nata jorenge, jorenge, jangal jamin nhi chhorenge’ (We will maintain the relationship with our ancestors, and will not leave our forests and lands).

“My imprisonment did not shame my son. He felt proud that his father is fighting for the cause of saving the forest, for preserving the environment and our collective rights. I have no worry. I will fight for my son, my family, my village and save Mahan”, Singh concluded on a positive note.

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