Mahan, the oldest sal wood forest in Asia, is the last remaining ecological patch of its kind. This very dense, unfragmented forest in the Singrauli coalfield region, is also an important source of livelihood for around 80,000 indigenous people. In 2011, the Mahan Coal Block was allocated for mining, and over the last four years, the indigenous people of Mahan have been locked in a struggle with the authorities to regain the right over their land. The natives fear that the ongoing industrial encroachment will adversely affect the social and cultural aspects of their lives.
The portraits I made in Mahan document the dignity of a way of life and celebrate the legacy of the individual, who strives to sustain, and preserve, the environment he or she inhabits. By capturing the people of Mahan at this critical time, when the tribal communities here are facing significant social and economic changes, these portraits chronicle the changing face of the local communities.