Madhya Pradesh – On the possible expulsion of activists from Barwani by district administration

May 31, 2012

A note by Madhuri Krishnaswami (Jagrut Adivasi Dalit Sanghatan)

A show-cause notice has been issued to me by the administration as the beginning of proceedings for externment (zila badar) from Barwani and 6 nearby districts. The reasons given are that the repeated protests and agitations by our sangathan, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan are “obstructing the government’s public welfare and developmental schemes” and are “striking fear and terror in the minds of government officials thus affecting government work” and that government officials and the general public feel “terrorised and insecure” as a result of our “criminal activities”; that the activities of the Sangathan are “criminal, anti-social and anti-public welfare”; that I myself am “misleading innocent adivasis”. The notice also lists all the criminal cases filed against me by the administration from 1999 to 2010 as proof of this charge.

As you know, Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, a membership-based mass organisation of several thousand families, has been campaigning for over 14 years for the realisation of the constitutional and legal rights of adivasis in Barwani, Madhya Pradesh, one of the most backward districts of the country. We have been campaigning for proper implementation of MGNREGA and food schemes, proper health care, rights of gram sabhas, forest rights, and against sale of illegal liquor etc. We are fighting violence against and exploitation of adivasis by officials and traders, and rampant corruption and non-performance in government schemes.

Far from “obstructing” government schemes our campaigns and protests have been for the proper implementation of these schemes according to law.

Needless to say, in the process, we have upset the completely corrupt bureaucracy and political interests who have thrived on siphoning off funds for public services and who are responsible for the complete failure of delivery of entitlements to work, food, health services, forest rights etc, These interests have been made very uncomfortable by an adivasi population that is confident, aware, organised and very vocal in demanding their legal rights. Hence, when we have refused to be cowed down by repeated false cases against us, they are trying this new tactic of externment.

The criminal cases against my comrades and myself are all false cases filed to quell protests demanding: due wages and other legal rights under MGNREGA; action against negligence in maternity care along with demands for adequate health staff, drugs, etc and functional public health system; proper functioning of the PDS; stopping illegal mining; forest rights under the Forest Rights Act; honouring the rights of gram sabhas. All protests were completely peaceful and legitimate.

Of the cases cited as proof of “habitual criminality”, we have been exonerated in all but one case(which is still pending)out of all the cases that went to court. According to the notice , 5 cases are still “under investigation” (for a period ranging from 2 to 6 years!) that is, the police has still not even made up its mind whether to prosecute or not!

The fact that we have been harassed with these cases after peaceful protests for legitimate demands, is proof of the failure of governance not of our “criminality”!

Externment proceedings are supposedly meant for “habitual criminals”. At a place where the liquor mining and timber mafia are flourishing, where public funds are being embezzled with impunity to the extent that adivasis are denied even their due wages and paltry rations, where money meant for hospital drugs and equipment are being embezzled, it is those of us who are fighting for the realization of the country’s constitution and laws who are “habitual criminals”.

While the externment notice has been issued by the district administration the BJP especially our local MLA clearly has a hand in this. They have repeatedly and publically been demanding that I be externed. The externment notice also cites one such event(para 11) led by BJP office-bearers and MLAS(but which also had Congress participation), which was called “Madhuri bhagao Abhiyan”, in which the political establishment had said in (a written memorandum) that if the administration did not do “zila badar”, they would do it themselves. Interestingly, this “rally” was on the day after a week-long dharna by the Sangathan demanding proper implementation and transparency in NREGA works. It was after this dharna that over 1500 Sangathan members were awarded Unemployment Allowance – for the first time in the country- along with 5 of the criminal cases cited in the notice!

Friends, this externment notice issued to me probably marks the beginning of a phase of intensified attacks on the sangathan. As the political establishment gears up for elections next year, and deeply resents a questioning, confident and politically aware adivasi population, more attacks of all sorts are to be expected.

We therefore urge you to join us in protesting this completely arbitrary and unconstitutional attack on our democratic rights.

Click here to read the showcause notice (in Hindi)