At least three out of the seven persons who had been arrested for allegedly attacking Rajasthan-based environmentalist Vishnu Lamba were released on bail on Tuesday, July 3.
The Tree Man Attacked In Broad Daylight
After his uncle's demise, Lamba had returned to his village in Rajasthan's Tonk district. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental campaigns related to plantation and awareness drives were put on hold and therefore he had decided to stay back for a few days.
"Some of the villagers informed me that miscreants had forcibly removed the guards that were placed around the trees planted by my team. These trees were located near the temple at the centre of the village but the guards were taken off and thrown into the nearby lake.
I sought help from the locals in retrieving the guards and placing them back to protect the trees. However, the next morning, I was told that this time, not just the guards were stolen but several trees were also uprooted," Lamba told The Logical Indian.
He decided to take the legal course and to bring it to the District Collector's notice.
"I wanted to visit the place, click a few pictures as evidence to furnish it before the official. While passing by the village with a co-worker, I noticed that the Sarpanch and the members of the panchayat were questioning a group of men."
When Lamba got down from the vehicle to check the commotion, he was attacked by the goons with sharp weapons. His co-worker rushed to help but was surrounded by the men and brutally assaulted.
"If I die, it would become easier to illegally capture the government land. All one had to do was to cut the trees to get access to the land to turn it into a commercial space," he said.
Lamba, who was severely injured and bleeding profusely, immediately went to the local police station seeking help. However, he did not receive any assistance from the cops. After waiting for an hour, he was admitted to the hospital in critical condition.
"The hospital authorities attended to me after three days. The moment I regained consciousness, I was shocked to see a bull in the ICU ward. Such was the condition of Saadat hospital which is considered one of the biggest hospitals in Tonk," Lamba said.
'Felt Betrayed By My Own Countrymen'
Even after being globally recognised for his contribution to protecting the environment, the 33-year-old said that he was left in a lurch after the life-threatening attack. Neither the government nor the local representatives stepped up to extend support to him.
"It had been almost ten days to the incident but none of the political leaders who had once lauded my efforts or the police officials came to check on me. The police were not willing to file an FIR but one of my pictures after the attack had gone viral and several people had started tweeting about it.
Later, due to the mounting pressure, the police department lodged a complaint and arrested seven persons. However, as far as I am aware, there are plans being put in place to release them. The government has failed me," he said.
Lamba shared that he was worried about the safety of his parents if these culprits were released from prison.
"I have dedicated each and every waking hour to work selflessly for this country but when the lives of my own parents are at stake, there has been no one to answer my pleas. Erik Solheim, who had served as the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme in 2016, raised his voice after getting to know about the incident but my own countrymen have let me down."
Who Is Vishnu Lamba?
Vishnu Lamba is an ecologist devoted to protecting nature and has spent 27 years of his life accomplishing his goal. He was addressed as the 'Tree Man of India' by former President Pranab Mukherjee, acknowledging his efforts for the environment. He is also the President of Kalptaru Sansthan and has donated 50 lakh trees.
He also served as an Ambassador of the Green Army to the Minister of Forests during the former Maharashtra government's tenure. In 2018, he had been very vocal about the destruction of forests in Madhya Pradesh