Updated: October 30, 2021 4:29:43 am
In an early-morning swoop on Friday, Gadchiroli Police evicted the agitationists staging a protest against iron ore mining at Surjagad and leases granted for mining at several other places in the district.
Six leaders of the protestors were first detained and later arrested before being bailed out in the evening.
“We had told them on Thursday that they should wind up their stir, for which no permission had been taken. But they didn’t seem to relent. So, the sub-divisional magistrate of Etapalli promulgated an order under Section 144 prohibiting congregation. Early morning, we evicted the protestors and detained their leaders,” Superintendent of
Police Ankit Goyal told The Indian Express.
Goyal and Collector Sanjay Meena had met the protestors on Thursday and told them that the government will consider their grievances and they should end the agitation.
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Sainu Gota, a Zilla Parishad member and Ramdas Jarate, a local activist, who were leading the agitation, were arrested along with Gota’s wife Sheela, Jarate’s wife Jaishree and two other activists, Nitin Pada and Amol Marakwar.
“We had arrested them under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code for staging a sit-in without permission,” said Goyal.
Asked how many protesters were there when the police went to evict them, Goyal said, “About 100-odd”.
Meanwhile, some local residents again gathered at the sit-in site after hearing about the arrest of their leaders. “They left the place after their leaders were released on bail,” said Goyal.
While Lloyd Metals and Energy Limited is operating the only functioning mine at Surjagad, other mine leases have been granted to other companies several years ago.
Local tribals are opposed to the mine leases, which they claim were granted without the permission of the local gram sabhas. They say the mines would cause pollution and health hazards to locals and would also encroach upon the land where tribal deities live, thereby destroying tribal culture.
They also fear that the explosives used in mining could find their way to Naxals and could then be used for anti-national activities.
Namdeo Usendi, Congress MLA from Chimur Assembly constituency, who was among the political leaders supporting the agitation, said, “We had supported the agitation because there were violation of many laws in grant of leases to various companies. On one hand, the government had refused permission for several irrigation projects in Gadchiroli since 1978 while on the other, the government granted leases to several companies and allotted them over 7,000 hectares of land from the reserved forest as against the 6,000 hectares required for the irrigation project. An agitation was supported at the local level to draw the attention of the government.”
Another senior politician to support the stir was Relief and Rehabilitation Minister Vijay Wadettiwar. The minister couldn’t be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.
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