September 1, 2011
VISHVENDU JAIPURIAR, The Telegraph
Forests of Pirtand in Giridih district have new best friends in the form of CPI(Maoist) women’s wing, Nari Mukti Sangh.
Since one week, around 70 women of the rebel outfit are taking out hour-long roadshows in the afternoon across the block, exhorting people not to cut trees. If they do, they better pay up a fine of Rs 1,000 or face some unspecified punishment, which is likely to involve beatings. It is green activism that takes itself seriously.
“Jungle bachana hi hoga varna aane wale vinaash ke liye hum khud hi zimmewar honge (we have to save forests at any cost now, otherwise we will be responsible for natural calamities),” thundered Neela Devi, one of the leaders of the outfit.
The women, armed with axes, sticks and spades, move from village to village with grim determination, spreading the message of afforestation.
Not only are they sloganeering, they are also taking out rallies and staging nukkad (neighbourhood) meetings in different villages of the Maoist stronghold.
Sources said unlike their male counterparts, the women don’t believe in violence. But if anyone felling trees is caught red-handed, he might be roughed up, as the women members have “threatened dire consequences” if people damage the area’s green cover.
When the women rebels are not issuing threats, they are also informing people about the importance of trees.
“Forests are our real assets. Please realise their importance and save trees. They absorb poisonous gases and are the best friends of man and wildlife,” said Devi at a rally on Monday.
Villagers, slightly bemused, are however turning up in large numbers to hear the women speak.
“We have had good response. Villagers have promised not to fell trees indiscriminately. But the Sangh will keep its eyes open,” said Devi.
On Monday, the Sangh’s roadshow passed through different villages including Masnotand, Pandnatand, Chilga and Palgunj, with around 70-odd women armed with pickaxes, spades and bamboo sticks chanting pro-green slogans and holding impromptu meetings.
At every spot, tens of villagers listened in pin-drop silence that would have been the envy of any green NGO.