SONBHADRA -Tribal women in this part of the state have defeated Naxalism but have been branded a `threat to the state’. They now say their vote would go to the candidate who will work for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 and for withdrawal of criminal cases against them.United by mass movements, these women have be ments, these women have been fighting for the rights of tribals and forest workers on forest land and produce since 2000. Similar struggles are under way in other parts of the state, too. Together, these movements forced the central government in 2006 to enact FRA which provided tribal and forest workers the right on forest land.

After its enactment, a struggle began to get the Act implemented. Though it met with little success, it made the tribal youth gravitating towards `armed revolution’ realise that rights can be achieved democratically , thus playing in important role in defeating Naxalism in the area. After FRA, no major Naxal violence has been reported in Sonbhadra in the past 10 years.

“Since tribals constitute less than 2% of UP’s population and are scattered across the state, they are not considered as vote bank. In Sonbhadra, however, tribal and forest workers make up 60% of the population. We have joined hands with Dalits, taking the strength to 80%.Duddhi and Obra constituencies of the district have been reserved for STs. Now, our voice will be heard,“ said Sukalo Gond (55), leader of the Kaimur Kshetra Majdoor Kisan Mahila Sangharsh Samiti, an association of tribal and forest workers.

Naxals gone, but netas fear to tread their former zones
Though it is claimed that the remote areas like Sonebhadra, Chandauli and Mirzapur have completely been freed of the Naxal menace after 2009, the star campaigners of almost all political parties still avoid holding public meetings in the interiors of these districts.Before the announce ment of assembly elections in October, BJP chief Amit Shah had arrived near the district headquarters in Robertsganj in Sonebhadra.During his recent Kisan Yatra, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi also passed through Madihan assembly area in Mirzapur, where his chopper had also landed during the 2012 assembly polls.However, star campaigners of some other regional parties held their public meetings in safe zones like Robertsganj, Chakia and Chandauli of Chandauli district and urban belts of Mirzapur.

However, if Jageshwar Gond of Manbasa village in Duddhi ST reserved assembly constitutency , located along Jharkhand border, is to be believed, people in remote areas never see big politicians coming to their areas to address election meetings.“The people here are taken to Robertsganj and other townships in buses by the leaders of different political parties to take part in their rallies or public meetings during the elections,“ said Savitri Gond, a local. Records of Sonebhadra district administration also prove that there are less permission seekers for holding major political meetings in the remote zones of the district, which are full of difficult terrains.

After announcement of elections, SP chief and CM Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati as well as Shah preferred to hold their public meetings at Robertsganj only . Rahul held a meeting at Duddhi market.Union home minister Rajnath Singh surely reached an interior zone in Myorpur area to hold his meeting but no bid leader moved in the rural belt of the districts.