The Adivasis and indigenous peoples in the Aarey forest were taken aback on Friday morning, after they heard sounds of JCB machines and tree cutters.
During the early hours on Friday, local inhabitants, living at the plot number 26 in the Aarey forest found out, that officials of the forest department have visited the spot and started chopping trees. The Adivasis and local residents immediately protested and forced the workers to stop their works.
"The forest department hasn't issued us any summon or notice regarding the carrying out construction works in our area. The spot on which trees were being cut were our own lands and we have valid paperworks to support our claim" Ishwar Mahale, local community leader of the Adivasis told FPJ.
Mahale told, the officials came to extend the already constructed wall which was erected as a boundary for a proposed zoo in the Aarey area. He mentioned, the Aarey department and the forest department had no coordination among them as the work order for the same was earlier revoked.
"The officials from forest department told they had no information regarding the project being stalled, we had to call officers from the Aarey department and had to convince them for stopping the works" stated Mahale.
Local Adivasis also said t as many as ten trees which were at least 25 feet long were cut on Friday morning. Most of these Adivasis work on the agricultural fields inside the Aarey forest, they have also stated that extending the constructed boundary wall will harm the crops on the fields as the autumn and winter season is generally the harvesting time for them.
"We have submitted our documents proving ownership of these lands to the local collector. We have been residing here for more than 70 years now and the officials assured that we won't be evicted from here" said another official.
Citizen activist and environmentalist, Aparna Bangia who was present at the spot on Friday morning stated that the government agencies have no legal right to take over the land or start construction works on the sites.
"The Adivasis have been living on these lands for many years and they have every right to do cultivation works on fields. Any move to evict them would be unfair," Bangia told FPJ.
Later in the day, state minister of environment took to Twitter and announced to have asked the involved agencies for issuing a 'Stop Work' notice.