Letter Demanding the Release of Madhuri Krishnaswami, Senoir Activist of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS)

A letter was sent to the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan demanding the release of Madhuri from JADS and a withdrawal of all charges being pressed by Health department staff against her and others from JADS. This arrest has been carried out in context of an earlier protest by JADS, carried due to the inhuman conditions in which an adivasi woman, Baniya Bai was forced to deliver at the roadside in public, since delivery care had been denied to her by the nearby Menimata PHC in Barwani district in November 2008. An independent enquiry into the entire incident related to Baniya Bai at Menimata PHC was also demanded along with prompt and effective action to improve maternal health services in Barwani district and other districts of Madhya Pradesh, to ensure that such denial of basic health rights and human rights is not repeated in future.

We are shocked and distressed to know that Ms. Madhuri, a leading organiser of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) has been arrested in Barwani on 16th May 2013. This arrest has been carried out in context of an earlier protest by JADS, carried due to the inhuman conditions in which an adivasi woman, Baniya Bai was forced to deliver at the roadside in public, since delivery care had been denied to her by the nearby Menimata PHC in Barwani district in November 2008. Some of us have met Baniya Bai and her family, and have documented from them directly the details of the event and the denial.

We understand that a case was filed against Madhuri, Baniya Bai’s husband, Basant and others by the PHC compounder in 2008. Madhuri and others had received a court notice to appear in the Barwani Court regarding this case on 16th May 2013. Madhuri appeared and the police filed a closure report, but the court was not satisfied with the reasons for the closure, and therefore the report was refused. Madhuri was arrested from the court complex itself and has been imprisoned in Khargone Women’s Jail. The case of Baniya Bai is also part of the writ petition filed in the High Court of MP, Indore Bench in which the status of Maternal health services was raised in the light of 26 maternal deaths recorded in Barwani District Hospital in 2010, within a span of 8 months.

We would like to note that no one has been punished when a poor woman like Baniya Bai has been forced to deliver on the road outside a PHC, due to gross negligence. No one is being held responsible when dozens of unnecessary, avoidable maternal deaths have taken place in Barwani, and similarly hundreds of avoidable maternal deaths are taking place across M.P. However when a mass organisation like JADS protests against this unacceptable state of affairs, their leader is arrested and imprisoned.

We strongly protest against this arbitrary action by your government against a people’s organisation, which has been raising valid questions about the very poor status of health care in your state. We demand that:

  1. All charges being pressed by Health department staff against Madhuri and others from JADS involved in this case should be immediately withdrawn, and Madhuri should be released at the earliest.
  2. An independent enquiry should be held into the entire incident related to Baniya Bai at Menimata PHC, and those found guilty should be punished.
  3. Prompt and effective action must be taken to improve maternal health services in Barwani district. Similar comprehensive action should be taken regarding other districts of Madhya Pradesh as well, to ensure that such denial of basic health rights and human rights is not repeated in future.

Brief Overview of the Case

Ms Madhuri Krishnaswamy working for maternal health and other entitlements with the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS)  was arrested on 16th of May 2013.The complaint based on which this arrest was made, was received by the police in 2008 (F.I.R. number 93) from a PHC Compounder V.K. Chauhan, who was involved in the matter of Baniya Bai, a very poor tribal woman from village Sukhpuri, who came to the Menimata PHC during labour on the night of 11 Nov. 2008.  She was admitted by the Compounder and a Nurse and left alone all night. The next morning she was first thrown out of the hospital, then asked to pay Rs 100 failing which she was asked to leave and go to the District hospital or Silawad CHC for her delivery. The staff refused to call the Janani Express; and finally Baniya Bai crawled out the labour room and delivered her baby on the street with the help of a local “Dai” (Traditional Birth attendant) covered by her father-in-law’s loin cloth.

Madhuri has been working for the rights of Dalits and Adivasis for several years in this remote district of Madhya Pradesh. She was passing by, and called up the Silawad CHC, the Silawad Police Station as well as health officials from Barwani. Upon being informed, senior officials ordered for a vehicle to be sent immediately to the Menimata PHC and Baniya Bai and her child were taken to the Silawad Hospital for admission. The case has been documented in the various government and civil society reports that were put together on the condition of maternal health services in District Barwani and is also part of the petition before the Indore Bench of the MP High Court (Dunabai v State of MP, W.P.(PIL) No 5097 of 2011) that is looking into 29 maternal deaths within nine months in Barwani District Hospital. The Compounder in this case was suspended after repeated demands for action from JADS, but was soon reinstated.

Ms Madhuri Krishnaswamy  was arrested when she appeared in the court of  Shri D.P. Singh Sewach, JMFC on 16 May in relation to proceedings against her based on the complaint of 2008 by the Compounder. Although the police had filed a Closure Report, it was refused since “clear reasons for closure had not been stated” and Madhuri did not opt for bail since the charges were clearly false[i]; one Section 148 actually refers to “rioting armed with deadly weapons”! She was sent to judicial custody until May 30th 2013.

We find unacceptable that the government targets those who work to protect the rights of the poorest Dalits and Adivasis who are suffering due to poor quality of health services; and we demand accountability from the erring officials who are indirectly responsible for thousands of women dying due to preventable pregnancy related causes

[i] The original Charge Sheet was filed u/s 147, 148, 332, 353 IPC; Section 332 of the IPC is  Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty, with imprisonment of 3 years or  fine or both and Sec 353 is Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty, with 2 years imprisonment. Sec 147 is for simple rioting but Sec 148 is rioting armed with deadly weapons, with three years imprisonment.  In addition to the sections of IPC, they have been booked under Sections 3 and 4 of the Madhya Pradesh Chikitsak Tatha Chikitsa Sewa Se Sambandhit Vyaktiyon Ki Suraksha Adhiniyam 2008.

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