Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Soni Sori the facet of Indian tribal woman

SreeNair | 2:16 AM | |

Police claim Kodopi was receiving the money on Maoist's behalf, while  human right activists are vocal in that the tribal has been inanely incriminated.The Special investigation team (SIT headed by IG P N Tiwari ) probing the payoff  has charge sheeted a senior company official with serious offences, including sedition, for “providing financial support” to the insurgents outfits.

.Essar has a huge plant in Bailadila, Dantewada, to ferry iron dust through an underground pipeline passing through Naxal areas to Vishakhapatnam.The police had alleged the company was providing “protection money" to Dantewada-based Maoist factions to allow the Essar Group to reopen a 267-km long iron ore  pipeline, which has been blasted at several places between Dantewada's Kirandul and Andhra Pradesh's port city Visakhapatnam. Essar strongly refutes all these allegations.

More than 3,000 people, including Adivasis, Maoist insurgents, security forces and members of a state-sponsored civil militia, known as Salwa Judum, have been killed during the last six years of insurgency in  the red corridor of Chhattisgarh. Atleast 35,000 Adivasis were dispossessed in the turmoil of the Maoist insurgency and the counter offensive operations of the state involving massive human rights violations.

Soni Sori hails from a politically active tribal family. Her father Madru Ram Sori has been a sarpanch for 15 years. Her uncle is a former MLA of the Communist Party of India. Her elder brother is in the Congress.Linga Kodopi her nephew is a trained journalist in Delhi from an institute in Noida.Sori is a government employed school teacher at an ashramsala for tribal children in Jabeli village in the Maoist-afflicted Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh.

Soon after the arrest of Linga capodi,the fugitive has trekked to Delhi ,leaving behind her children ,in a dangerous cross-country run from the Odisha border, disguised as an ill woman, to seek legal assistance at Delhi. Her husband has been jailed for being an alleged Maoist. On 14 June last year, her father was brutally attacked and shot in the leg by Maoists accusing him of being a police informer and was hospitalised in Jagdalpur.The Maoists had  tied the rest of the family and left them in the jungle and ransacked the house, looting every thing : gold, utensils, grain, cows. Police allege she is either a Maoist or a Maoist sympather and is implicated in five cases of Maoist violence. Running through the forest on 11th September,on her journey to Delhi,  Tehalka claims ,she had spoken  to their correspondent  “The police are trying to kill me. They fired at me today. I fled. I need to stay alive to keep the truth alive. They don’t want me to reach Delhi. I can’t let them kill me.”

Though Soni did reach Delhi,she was arrested from a bus stand.

Tehalka continues:On 8th September, one day before contractor Lala and Linga were supposedly arrested in Palnar market exchanging money, Mankar, a constable from Kirandul Police Station had accosted Soni and asked her to convince Linga to “cooperate” with the police in nabbing Lala. They wanted Linga to pose as a Maoist, take some money from Lala, then hand it over to the police. If she convinced Linga to do this, Mankar promised Soni’s name would be dropped from all the police cases that had been concocted against her.Soni refused angrily but, according to her, Mankar grabbed her phone and made a call to Lala himself impersonating as a local Maoist. The next day, on 9 September, at about 4 pm, she says a car full of plainclothes men came to her father’s house in Palnar and forcibly arrested her  25-year-old nephew, in his native Sameli village in Dantewada district and she had been declared an absconder. Knowing that she would be arrested next, Soni decided to flee."

Thehalka further adds that; "In an explosive and shocking admission, constable Mankar admits that the money was actually seized from Lala’s house and advised her to stay in Delhi for a few months. The police have no real evidence on the case, he assures her. The case would soon fall apart in court and then she could return. Till then, all she had to do was hold her silence and not talk about what had happened."

Why did they frame them?

Thehalka quotes Soni’s father as saying in frustration from his hospital bed, “The Naxals are hitting us from the front and the police from the back. I ask the government to have mercy — please just kill us and be done with it.When the Maoists summon us, we just have to go. If you want to live, you go; if you want to die, you don’t go. But if you go, the police come after you. I ask the police, can even their highest officer live in these areas without a gun and not do their bidding when the Maoists summon?"

What was their crime? Soni Sori, who was trained by a Gandhian peace organization, Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, has been critical of the violations committed by the security forces. At the same time, both Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi have also been outspoken critics of the Maoist pursuit of armed violence.

They did not want to be the feeder line of the convoluted theories of the Maoist mad caps nor they wanted to be stealthy squealers to the sleuths. As Neelam Mishra writes ,"they did not want to be playing along in the deadly shadow game of sleuth,scout and informer,of rebel,provocateur and double agent" .They wanted their Constitutional rights: equal citizenship and rule of law. They wanted to redeem their tribe from the nexus of contractors, politicians, police — and off course the Maoists. Soni and Linga fought to get the minimum wages of tribals doubled, and kicked up a row about policemen pocketing money from illegal teak trade.For the police she was a cactus in the garden.

Their clout over the tribals brought Soni and Linga into conflict with Avdesh Gautam, a powerful local Thakur contractor and Congress activist, who had started out as a constable and had strong links within the police. Gautam had old political enmities with the Sori family. When Soni got an independent contract from the district collector to build her own school, the enmity came out from cover. Realising their potential , the police began to pressure both Soni and Linga to become full-fledged informers. In a earlier incidence , on 30th August 2009, Linga was forcibly hauled from his house and kept in a police station toilet for 40 days. He was released on 10th October 2009 following  a habeas corpus petition in the Chhattisgarh High Court. Linga left to Delhi. At Delhi he became increasingly vocal in the national media about police atrocities. The police directed their cannons against Soni, intimidating her to urge Linga to come back. Having failed to turn him into an informer, they now wanted to declare him a Maoist.

On 7th July 2010, apart from the deadly attack on Gautam, a 150-strong group of uniformed Maoist ultras had also attacked Kuakonda Police Station and the CRPF camp with rifles and mortar fire. On 15 August 2010, the new tehsil office in Kuakonda was also completely demolished by a bomb blast. A month later, on 16 September 2010, Naxalites stopped and burned some trucks in Nerli. The FIRs were not available.However, more than three months after the first of these attacks, on 30th October 2010 and then on 11th December 2010, the police filed three charge sheets on these cases. In each of these Soni had been named as an accused and shown as “absconding”.

Thehalka adds :"The truth is, until recently, the police did not want to arrest Soni. They merely wanted to use the fictitious cases they had concocted against her to harass her and wear her down. If you don’t become an informer, if you don’t urge Linga to come back from Delhi, if you don’t collaborate with the police, we will lock you up like we have locked your husband. "That was the constant threat.

After the "hot pursuit" Soni Sori was arrested in New Delhi on October 4, 2011, in a joint operation by police from Delhi and Chattisgarh, alleging of ferrying protection money from industrial group Essar to the Maoists. Despite her fears expressed in several of her court appearances that she would be tortured and killed in police custody ,the lower court and the highcourt in the national capital "in the due process of justice "denied her interim bail and granted police transit remand to take her to Chattisgarh accompanied by women police personnel. Back in Dantewade,after the transit remand period , she was produced before a magistrates court on October 8 where the magistrate remanded her to police custody till October 10 with a condition that she would not be physically tortured in police custody.The magistrate also made it clear that she will be medically examined before and after the police custody. In spite of all these precautions,when produced in the magistrates court on October 10,she was not able to climb out of the police jeep being badly injured in the head and spine.She was brutally intimidated both mentally and physically while in custody.She was admitted to a Dandewada hospital. Her lawyers took the case to Supreme Court arguing that the medical report of the Dandawade hospital indicated injuries to the head and the lumbar region along with a black mark on the "plantar aspect of the middle finger" which was caused by electric shock.The SC took this in to cognizance and directed  that she be medically examined in the  NRSMC,Kolkata. She was then sent to a hospital in neighboring Jagdalpur and, after treatment, to be moved to jail.

Evidence of  brutal torture emerged during an independent medical exam conducted on her ,after three weeks of the incident ,on 26th October at the NRS Medical College  Hospital, Kolkata .The medical report stated clearly that two sizable stones were thrusted in to her vagina and another in her rectum and that she had "annular tears" in her spine.

The Hindu reports; "The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to immediately intervene and order an impartial probe into the role of Chhattisgarh police in the case relating to alleged torture of tribal woman-teacher Soni Sori, who is detained in Raipur jail now, on the allegation of helping the Maoists.

HRW Executive Director of Women’s Rights Division Liesl Gerntholtz, in a letter to Dr. Singh, said the Soni Sori case raised serious questions about the commitment of the Indian government to prevent torture, investigate the torture allegations, hold accountable those responsible for the torture, and ensure that detainees and prisoners have adequate access to health care.

The HRW,quotes a public letter allegedly written by Ms. Sori to her lawyer in the Supreme Court in  which Sori said",

“While looking at my body, he(Mr Karg the SP) abused me in filthy language and humiliated me. After some time, he went out and (…) sent three boys. (They) started molesting me and I fell after they pushed me. Then they put things inside my body in a brutal manner. I couldn’t bear the pain and I was almost unconscious. After a long time, I regained consciousness (…) By then, it was already morning”.The Hindu report adds.

Ms.Arundhathi Roy writes in her article in recent Frontline cover story "At a recent Supreme court hearing ,activists presented the judges with the stones in a plastic bag.The only outcome of their efforts has been that Soni remains in jail while Ankit Garg ,the Superintendant of Police who conducted the interrogation, was conferred with the Presidents Police Medal for Gallantry on Republic Day."

    On Republic Day, the SP was awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry for his role in an October 9, 2010 counterinsurgency operation, in which about 250 members of the State's Special Task Force and district police ambushed Maoist guerrillas in Mahasamund district. Six Maoists were killed and two civilians, including a deaf and mute manual labourer, died in controversial circumstances.

Sori’s lawyers have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of India to transfer Sori to Delhi or another state where she would not be under the control of the Chhattisgarh police. In the Raipur Jail her health condition is steadily deteriorating, and she is suffering from pain and bleeding. The Kolkata medical team had given medications to Soni for 15-30 days and advised that she be taken to the hospital in a month’s time for review and further treatment. This has not been done despite repeated complaints by her of pain, bleeding and request for treatment on the alibi that the jail authorities do not have the discharge slips of the NRS hospital.  Out of frustration at not being given any medical treatment, Soni Sori went on hunger strike in the Raipur Jail from 8th February to 27th February. It  is important to note that this Raipur Hospital gave Soni Sori a clean bill of health in October. When she was taken there immediately after her torture , she was in no position to even walk. Not only did they not recover the stones in her body, but the Medical Superintendent actually went on record to call her a “malingerer” and said that she was feigning illness. In light of such callous treatment at the Raipur Hospital, the women’s groups urged that Soni Sori be transferred to an independent medical hospital in Delhi or Kolkata, which is not under the influence of the Chhattisgarh police, so that she can be properly examined and treated.

Amnesty International the international human rights watchdog has sought unconditionall release of Soni by describing  Soni Sori ,a Prisoner of Conscience .

Indian activists in collaboration with Amnesty International, have launched a video campaign featuring activists holding up symbolic garlands with the words “shame” on them.

Soni's story requires a revisit.A revisit to the eviscerating Indian politics where the elite state takes on the mantle of  the predator. A weak, debilitated women being pushed to the wall -her travails - should not go unheeded-falling in to the dead ears of justice taking its due course.The callousness of the uniformed crusaders-the cops flaunting their heels on the tribals- in the internecine world of war should not go reprimanded..The indomitable courage manifested by the stubborn tribal strength in her fighting against the mightiest claws of both the Maoists and  screwy posse of police is  the exemplar for the Indian women to emulate.

India lurches loaded with the Maoist terror squad like an albatross around her neck.The Red Corridor of terror sculpted out by the left-wing-extremism has cut a swathe through seven states , Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Bihar.You can hear the foot stompings  from Madhyapradesh too. Eleven out of the 16 districts in Chhattisgarh are hit by Red ultras, while five of them afflicted very severely.The antitoxin(counter insurgence forces) expected have taken  its own pound too.The fall-out is that the Indian states like  Chattisgarh has become the war turf where anybody can get legally killed on   being stamped as a mole of  Naxalites.

The Hindu recalls Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh, writing in an article on left-wing extremism (“From Tirupati to Pashupati?” The Hindu, October 14, 2011): “It is not the naxals who have created the ground conditions ripe for their ideology — it is the singular failure of successive governments both in the States and the Centre."

Terrorism of any form must be bumped up without remorse.State-sponsored combat action against the Maoists is necessarily its obligation .But the inner logic in the administration of political governance lies in its readiness to uphold the self esteem of the multitudes.This is the basic tenant of any political system.When the power politics shun away from this onus , the dignity of the ruled is in jeopardy.The bond between the citizens and his political representatives does not stop at a simple vote-relation.There is a barter of dignity.The citizen believes that dignity of his life and its premises will be safeguarded through the political transaction.


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