On August 3, over 2500 Adivasis gathered and protested in response to the externment notice under the Madhya Pradesh Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam, 1990 sent to Valsingh Saste, an activist of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan by the Barwani district administration in the BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh.
For two decades, Valsingh Saste as an activist of JADS has been continuously leading struggles for the constitutional and fundamental rights of Adivasis.
In the BJP ruled state of Madhya Pradesh, the state administration has launched a systematic attack on the Adivasi communities throughout the state. Adivasi communities are being illegally evicted and are subjected to sustained harassment and even violence by those in power.
Adivasis’ Resistance Against the Ongoing State Persecution
Protesting Adivasis unanimously responded to the ongoing attack by the state raising slogans of – Valsingh kon che? Aamu che, aamu che! (Who is Valsingh? All of us!) – making it clear that this was not an issue of mere harassment of an Adivasi activist, but an affront to the entire Adivasi community who has continuously leading constitutional struggles for their rights.
The move to hand show cause notice while accusing Valsingh of committing ‘heinous crimes’ of organizing protests, rallies and demonstrations for their constitutional and fundamental rights has enraged Adivasis, who consider the notice an attempt to subdue the ongoing struggles of Adivasis for their constitutional rights.
Adivasi women and men were stopped on their way to the District Collector’s Office as the gates of the office were shut to prevent protestors from entering the premises.
Adivasis led their protest right at the gate of the office, barring all entry and exit from the office until the District Administration formally ‘received’ the showcause notice being submitted to them – seeking a response from the administration as to why shouldn’t Adivasis of the district pass externment orders on the administration instead, for their crimes of the constant violation and denial of the fundamental rights of Adivasis?
Adivasis Say, ‘We Have to Teach the Laws to State Actors’
The protesting Adivasis said that the district administration was being paid to perform the task of knowing laws that serve people and to ensure that the constitutional rights of Adivasis are not violated.
However, the Adivasi communities explained that it them who have to constantly reach out to the police, protest, agitate and even educate the state actors leaving behind their homes, their fields, their work for which they have to travel long distances.
‘The law regarding NREGA, regarding Ration (NFSA), regarding our education (Right to Education), regarding our health,’ the protesting Adivasis said and while addressing the district administration further added that ‘while you receive salaries from our money, it is us who have to do your work for you! Instead of taking out externment notices against, us, you should be paying us!’
Throughout the protest, Adivasis publicly testified to these ‘crimes’ of the government and administration. Adivasi farmers remain bereft of their right to sell crops at MSP and are forced to sell their crops at low prices, which do not even cover their costs of production, pushing them into debt while traders derive a hefty profit.
Instead of guaranteeing the MSP for all 24 crops at 1.5 times the total cost of production, the government is attempting to do away with all possibilities of Adivasi farmers receiving remunerative prices for their crops.
MSP, Offline Education, Healthcare and Employment, Communities Demand
The lack of employment opportunities, the deliberate mismanagement, and corruption in the implementation of NREGA has led to the forced displacement and migration of thousands of Adivasis to Gujarat and Maharashtra, where women and men suffer harassment, violence, and exploitation at the hands of their employers.
Citing Madhya Pradesh government’s order to close down more than half of schools across 89 Adivasi blocks in 20 districts, contrary to the provisions of ensuring a school every 1-3 kilometers as per the Right to Education Act, 2009.
Already the futures of Adivasi students have suffered tremendously due to the imposition of online education – further, the government is actively trying to privatise education and deny Adivasis, Dalits, and other children of the working masses their right to education.
Hospitals remain perpetually understaffed, while health centres and hospitals in Adivasi blocks lack basic tools and machines for investigation and diagnoses – protestors demanded that the District Collector, SP come out and respond to the notice publicly, however only the SDM and the SDOP of Police appeared to receive the show cause notice addressed to the district administration.
As the show cause notice was read out to the officials, protestors demanded that the officials answer for each of the ‘crimes’ listed in the notice. For over an hour, uncomfortable officials were forced to face a barrage of questions on the aforementioned issues, to which the SDM and SDOP were unable to provide concrete answers.
Adivasi organisations across Barwani including Adivasi Chhatra Sangathan, Jay Adivasi Yuva Shakti (JAYS), Adivasi Ekta Parishad, Adivasi Vikas Parishad, Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Mahasabha and OBC, SC, ST Ekta Manch participated in the protest and warned the administration that the masses will not tolerate the attempts to harass and subdue constitutional Adivasi struggles and the Adivasi communities all across the state will organise against it.