Two anti-iron ore mine activists from Bhamragarh and Etapalli tehsils of Gadchiroli, backed by over 70 gram sabhas from the areas around the iron ore deposits of Surjagad, have won the zilla parishad elections. Sainu Gota from Etapalli and Lalsu Narote from Bhamragarh entered the Gadchiroli Zilla Parishad as direct representatives of the gram sabhas, opening a new chapter in the Naxal-affected district’s electoral history.
Gota and wife Sheela were in a controversy following their campaign against the Gadchiroli police last month for the latter’s alleged rape of two tribal women. They, however, were jailed after the two women told the High Court in Nagpur that they had not been raped but were actually treated well by the police after they were detained in the Etapalli jungle.
Two other activists, Ramdas Jarate and Mangesh Holi, were also arrested and jailed. Of them, Jarate had contested from Dhanora but lost. Narote, the first tribal lawyer from the district, told The Indian Express, “We had fielded 11 candidates from four tehsils. We have made a beginning by winning two. We had raised issues like the ill effects of iron ore mining and impropriety, displacement and police atrocities. We thought entering electoral politics was a necessity of the day. The mainstream parties.”