Duddhi By-election focuses on land, women & Adivasi Rights

Vijay Singh Gond's victory empowers AIUFWP's advocacy efforts
Image: Vishal Srivastav / The Indian Express

In 2022, Ramdular Gond of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) clinched the Duddhi assembly seat by defeating Vijay Singh Gond of the Samajwadi Party with a margin of 6,297 votes[1]. His rapid ascent from a village headman to a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) was both meteoric and surprising for many in Sonbhadra.

However, Ramdular Gond’s political career took a drastic turn when he was found guilty of rape and criminal intimidation under the POCSO Act by the Sonbhadra MP/MLA court. The announcement of his sentence led to the revocation of his Assembly membership, leaving the Duddhi seat vacant and necessitating a by-election[2].

In the subsequent by-election, the Samajwadi Party once again nominated Vijay Singh Gond for the Duddhi assembly seat[3]. This time, Vijay Singh Gond emerged victorious, defeating Shravan Gond of the BJP with a margin of 2,996 votes[4]. His victory was significantly bolstered by his association with the All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP).

For the past decade, the AIUFWP has been dedicated to the regularization of forest laws across India. Their strong backing played a pivotal role in Vijay Singh Gond’s campaign, which focused on pressing issues such as the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, addressing atrocities against Adivasis, and advocating for Adivasi women’s rights. He also emphasized the need to revive the local education system in Duddhi, where many schools had been shuttered by the government, advocating for free education for all.

The AIUFWP has set forth several critical demands that Vijay Singh Gond has pledged to address. These include ending historical injustices against forest-dependent communities by recognizing their resource rights, building community-centric forest governance, and repealing unjust amendments. He aims to enhance livelihoods by ensuring fair market prices for non-timber forest produce and to uphold women’s rights by securing land titles, equal pay, and workplace safety.

Further, Vijay Singh Gond has committed to withdrawing regressive labour codes, reinstating labour-focused laws, addressing the needs of peasants and farmers, and ensuring a minimum wage of Rs. 400 with extended MGNREGA work. He supports enacting a Community Resource Rights Act for traditional maritime and riverine communities, maintaining public health and education facilities, and protecting constitutional rights to safeguard India’s socialist, secular fabric.

Sokalo Gond, president of AIUFWP and a prominent women’s forest rights defender from Lilasi village, expressed her joy over Vijay Singh Gond’s victory. She remarked, “We have worked tirelessly to secure a capable representative in Vijay Gond, and I am elated by this victory. The previous BJP leader did not treat us well when we initiated efforts; I faced poor treatment simply because I am a woman. Vijay Gond’s election is particularly gratifying because he respects the type of women’s leadership that thrives in AIUFWP, and I am optimistic about a brighter future under his representation.”

In the words of Ms. Roma Malik who is the leading figure of the All India Union of Forest Working People, “In essence, the true victory lies in the heightened focus on land, women’s, and Adivasi issues, demonstrating that a commitment to the welfare of the people is paramount for political success. Vijay Singh Gond’s win not only highlights the importance of these issues but also showcases the power of dedicated advocacy and grassroots support in bringing about meaningful change.”

Vijay Singh Gond’s triumph underscores the significance of addressing land rights, women’s issues, and Adivasi rights. His unwavering commitment to these causes resonated deeply with the electorate, ensuring his victory. This success is also a notable milestone for the AIUFWP, as it brings increased attention to the critical issues they have been championing, potentially leading to substantial improvements in the lives of indigenous communities.

[1] https://www.oneindia.com/duddhi-assembly-elections-up-403/

[2] https://indianexpress.com/article/political-pulse/rise-and-fall-of-up-bjp-mla-ramdular-gond-convicted-of-rape-set-to-be-disqualified-9067328/

[3] https://www-jagran-com.translate.goog/uttar-pradesh/sonbhadra-akhilesh-yadav-declared-vijay-singh-gond-as-candidate-from-duddhi-seat-has-been-a-minister-in-samajwadi-party-government-23613840.html?_x_tr_sl=hi&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=sc&_x_tr_hist=true

[4] https://www-bhaskar-com.translate.goog/local/uttar-pradesh/sonbhadra/news/counting-of-votes-for-by-election-on-dudhi-assembly-seat-will-be-done-133116960.html?_x_tr_sl=hi&_x_tr_tl=en&_x_tr_hl=en&_x_tr_pto=sc


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