WHY IS MAHESH IN JAIL?

How can a person working to deepen democracy be 'anti-state' as claimed by security agencies?

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Mahesh has been at the heart of the tendu leaves rebellion in Gadchiroli, the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra. In the tribal-dominated Gadchiroli district, tendu leaves are Gram Sabha property, and contractors have to pay a royalty to villagers. In a phenomenal uprising, 48 villages decided to revolt against the monopoly of the contractors and independently sell the tendu leaves to beedi companies. They stood to earn three times of the wages and small royalty they earned earlier from the contractors. On this rebellion, Mahesh said, “The final sale to the beedi companies is going to be a landmark one, but the process has already created history. If we succeed, every village in Gadchiroli will revolt and take control of the tendu leaves business.”

Mahesh has also been working tirelessly on tribal rights in the context of illegal mining for the last several years. Mahesh has been working for the past seven years on forest rights of adivasis in the region, in the face of illegal mining activities in the region, especially protesting against the Surajgad mining projects.

Moreover, he was actively involved in the process of deepening democracy through strengthening Gram Sabhas in the tribal areas. How can a person working to deepen democracy be ‘anti-state’ as claimed by state security agencies? Development often means taking sides of people and taking collective action for people’s betterment within the ambit of law and constitution. Mahesh, a central convener and committee member of the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA) had been actively campaigning along with Adivasi communities of the region to sell Tendu leaves directly into the market without the involvement of the middlemen. His work in the region and constant confrontations with the police and state administration led to several cases being filed against him. In support and solidarity with Mahesh, as many as 300 gram sabhas from Etapalli and Bhamragad tehsils of Gadchiroli passed a resolution to free Mahesh.

Mahesh is a central convener and committee member of the Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (VVJVA) which had been actively campaigned along with Adivasi communities of the region to sell forest directly into the market without the involvement of the middlemen. His work in the region and constant confrontations with the police and state administration led to several cases being filed against him. “But this one is shocking. A man who has been busy working with the community is booked in such a serious crime. It is just absurd,” his sister says. Maybe a re articulation of what the VVJVA does? Trying to source this.

Mahesh was arrested by the Pune police on June 6, 2018 and has been in the prison since the last two years now. Mahesh’s arrest has been made under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) under a revised FIR on Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon violence, along with 15 other senior activists, lawyers, academicians. Currently, in the Taloja prison, his bail has been rejected twice in the last two years and the trial has not even begun.

Sources:

 

  1. https://www.thehindu.com/society/the-tendu-leaves-rebellion-in-maharashtras-gadchiroli/article23280126.ece

  2. https://www.change.org/p/devendra-fadnavis-free-mahesh-raut-activist-and-former-pmrdf?redirect=false

  3. https://thewire.in/government/gadchiroli-adivasis-mining-displacement

  4. https://free-them-all.net/2018/10/10/gadchirolis-300-gram-sabhas-pass-resolution-in-support-of-activist-mahesh-raut/

  5. https://thewire.in/caste/meet-the-five-arrested-in-the-bhima-koregaon-case