Tribals from Barwani and civil society activists from across Madhya Pradesh have condemned the Barwani district administration's externment notice to a Gandhian tribal rights activist.

Madhuri Krishnaswamy, who is part of a people's organization known as Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), was served the externment notice by Barwani district administration for “obstructing the development work of the administration” and for creating “an atmosphere of fear among the government functionaries” through her organization.

“The externment notice is based on a note prepared by Barwani police detailing old criminal cases against Ms. Krishnaswamy. She has also been provided with some other details that she had asked for along with a 15-day window to reply to the notice,” Barwani collector Shirman Shukla told The Hindu.

Ms. Krishnaswamy, popular as “Madhuri Ben” among the tribals of Barwani, has been instrumental in developing a grassroots movement-demanding rural maternal and child health, labour rights and forest rights-in the remotest and most backward regions of the district.

Last year, she brought to light the horrifying story of Vyapari Bai, a tribal woman who died during labour after 27 hours of pain and absolute lack of medical attention, which sparked national outrage.

The notice has also been condemned by People's Union for Civil Liberties and several other state and national human rights organizations.

Tribals affiliated to JADS called a press conference and condemned the district administration's move calling it part of a conspiracy hatched by political leaders of BJP and Congress in view of next year's assembly elections.

“This reminds us of British times. Is the government scared to face us? It is our constitutional right to organize and agitate and it cannot be taken away by the collector,” said Valsingh, a tribal leader of the JADS.

“If Madhuri Ben is an anti-social element and criminal, then we are all criminals and externment notices should be served to all of us,” he said.

“Extermnent orders should be given not to Madhuri Ben, but to the corrupt administration, functioning under the leadership of the Collector, SP and CEO of the Zilla panchayat, which is sucking the blood of adivasis and usurping our rights by siphoning of crores of rupees that have been allotted for our development,” said a statement issued by the organization.