Jean Dreze, Aruna Roy and Mira Shiva extend support to Madhuri Krishnaswamy

Social activists and academics from all over the country, along with the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), have come out in support of tribal rights activist Madhuri Krishnaswamy and condemned the Barwani district administration for serving an externment notice on her a few days ago.

Ms. Krishnaswamy leads the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), a grass-roots tribal rights organisation.

In a letter to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, activist Jean Dreze has said: “I am dismayed [to hear about the externment notice] ... to Madhuri ... who is a person of high integrity... I have very high regard for the Sangathan's work, which is concerned with the defence of constitutional rights of Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalised groups through democratic means. It is the duty of the state to protect their democratic rights. These include the right to ‘move freely throughout the territory of India', guaranteed as a fundamental right under Article 19(d) of the Constitution. I urge you to ensure that this objectionable show-cause notice is withdrawn.”

Activist Aruna Roy, through a statement issued by the Mazdoor Kishan Shakti Sangathan, called for doing away with the “colonial” practice of issuing externment notices.

“We strongly condemn the externment notice. This Sangathan has been campaigning for over 14 years for the realisation of the constitutional and legal rights of Adivasis in Barwani, one of the most backward districts of the country. As a direct result of their efforts, between October and December 2006, Adivasi NREGA workers in Barwani district were paid unemployment allowances, totalling Rs. 4,75,386.”

Public health activist Mira Shiva pledged support to Ms. Krishnaswamy.

In an internationally released statement, the AHRC has strongly objected to the externment notice.

“The notice was served to Madhuri and the organisation — a people's movement with thousands of families as members — at the same time the Indian delegation, led by the Attorney-General of India, G. E. Vahanvati, addressed the United Nations' Human Rights Council on India's human rights commitments. The Madhya Pradesh Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam, often referred to as a black [draconian] law has questionable premises concerning its enactment, a fact proved from the pattern of its enforcement.”

Meanwhile, thousands of Adivasis associated with the JADS have decided to launch a strong movement starting Monday and serve “externment notices” on the district administration and police officials.

Adivasis associated with the organisation have alleged that the notice was issued under political pressure in view of next year's Assembly elections as the efforts of the JADS had led to uncomfortable questions being asked about embezzlement of crores of MNREGA funds which are a major source of election funding.