On May 1, 2019, the Madhya Pradesh government began the process of reexamining the cases of several forest dwellers whose claims over forestland had been rejected. The state notified all district collectors not to carry out any evictions till the cases had been reviewed. Despite this, on the morning of July 9, around 50 forest department officials and police arrived in Siwal village in Nepanagar block of Burhanpur district with excavators and began razing down farms in the name of carrying out a plantation drive. The forest officials tried to run JCBs (excavators) over farms in which farmers had just sown seeds. When the farmers protested, the police fired pellets at them. Four farmers were injured and one had to be taken to a hospital in Indore.
The police claim that three forest officials were also injured when the villagers pelted stones at them. According to a junior police official at Nepanagar police station, the villagers attacked first.
On July 14, tribals of Burhanpur gathered at the Burhanpur District Collectors office to protest against the forest departments illegal firing and its constant violations of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) and government orders.
The Nepanagar Police registered two First Information Reports (FIRs) in the case. In the first FIR, three unidentified forest officials were booked for rash and negligent actions that cause hurt and endanger human life. In the second FIR, 150 unidentified tribals were charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code dealing with unlawful assembly, rioting and obstruction of duty by public servants.
Following the FIR, almost 1,000 villagers from Nepanagar staged a sitin outside the local police station. They alleged that the FIRs were wrongly filed and called for all false cases against the tribal farmers of Siwal to be dropped. They also demanded that the rights accorded to the Village Assembly (gram sabha) under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, and the FRA should be protected from violations by government officials.
Additionally, in accordance with the State governments order of May 1, 2019, and Section 4(5) of the FRA, no claimant of forest rights should be evicted or acted against until the legal processing and verification of their claims are completed.
Chief Minister Kamal Nath has ordered an investigation into the incident after several political leaders have demanded action against those responsible.