Bhopal: The Barwani district administration in Madhya Pradesh last month served an externment notice to tribal rights activist Valsingh Saste over charges of being a serial offender and carrying out rallies over various issues. The move has enraged the indigenous community of the region and over 2,000 tribals picketed the Barwani Collectorate on Tuesday.
Around 350-km away from the state capital, the Barwani district is located on the Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra borders and has a sizable tribal population. The district is reeling from various issues such as implementation of the Forest Right Act, alleged corruption in MGNREGA and the public distribution system, migration of labour, etc.
On July 22, the Barwani district administration served an externment notice of a year to Valsingh Saste, a tribal rights activist and member of the rights outfit Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sanghatan (JADS). Listing out 16 cases which were registered against Valsingh, the district administration alleged that Singh was a criminal who illegally carried weapons, organised rallies, chakka jam, provoked people against the district administration in the garb of being a worker of JADS and disrupted peace in the region.
Referring to the section 5(A)(B) of MP Rajya Suraksha Adhiniyam-1990, the district administration in the served notice has sought an explanation from Valsingh on why he should not be externed from Barwani and bordering districts like Alirajpur, Dhar, Indore, Khargone, Khandwa, Jhabua and Burhanpur for a year.
In the four-page letter, the district collector has asked Valsingh to submit his reply by July 27, 2021 before the District Magistrate’s court.
Interestingly, among the allegations made in the notice and the 16 cases listed out, none is related to possession of illegal arms, attempt to murder and others allegations made in the first and last page of the notice.
Outraged with the district administration’s move, tribals blocked the entrance of the collectorate and raised slogans like – ”Valsingh kon che? Aamu che, aamu che! (Who is Valsingh? All of us, all of us!).”
Defending Valsingh, protestors claimed that he has been leading struggles for the constitutional and fundamental rights of the Adivasis since the last two decades in the district.
“It’s an attempt to subdue the ongoing struggles of Adivasis for their constitutional rights, which Valsingh was leading in the district,” said Nasri Bai Ningwal, a protestor and JADS worker.
During the protest, the tribals handed the administration a show cause notice of an externment order against the administration for allegedly violating and denying the fundamental rights to the Adivasis.
Commenting over it, Harsingh Jamre, a protestor and JADS activist, alleged that from Forest Rights issues to corruption, non-payment of wages under MGNREGA, minimum support price for farmers, and ration, Valsingh has been peacefully fighting on various issues for the tribals since the last two decades. “Yet, the government as well as the district administration see him as a ‘criminal’ and are planning to extern him,” he said.
Madhuri Krisnaswami, convenor of JADS, who has also been charged in multiple cases of protests and rallies along with Valsingh, alleged that the accusations of being a notorious criminal, attempting to murder, disrupting peace, assaulting, keeping illegal weapon and creating an atmosphere of fear made in the notice were “fictional” and copied from other externment notices.
She explained, “Valsingh was acquitted by the court in nine out of 16 cases mentioned in the notice. In remaining cases, he was booked for peacefully protesting against corruption, tribal rights and for his involvement in Adivasi campaigns for their rights and legal entitlement. Though the protests involved thousands, charges were framed only against Valsing and other leaders. A few cases of protest and other allegations are still under observation.”
She further said, “The only reason the district administration wanted to extern him was because as a JADS worker, he has emerged as a strong voice of tribals in the region in the last two decades.”
When contacted, Barwani District Collector, Shivraj Singh Verma told Newsclick that the notice has been served to Valsingh Saste based on a complaint moved by the police in the district collector’s court.
“Serving notice is the court's process. Since Valsingh has not submitted his reply before the court, I cannot comment on it. But I can assure, the decision to extern him from the district will be made on the basis of facts and Valsingh will submit the reply to the court,” The District Collector said.