Protesters burnt the effigy of Dantewada SP Ankur Garg, whom Soni Sori accuses of brutal torture, and who was awarded a Gallantry medal on Republic Day
SIX MONTHS since TEHELKA reported on the witch-hunt of Soni Sori, 35, an innocent tribal schoolteacher from Chhattisgarh falsely accused of channelling funds to the banned CPI(Maoist), a nationwide human rights campaign has been protesting her arrest and shocking treatment. This month, Amnesty International declared Soni Sori a prisoner of conscience: “The Indian authorities must release Soni Sori, an activist and schoolteacher imprisoned and allegedly tortured for speaking out against human rights abuses,” Another international group, Change.org, has an online petition that has gathered 5,000 signatures so far. In India, the latest protest wave took place in Bengaluru.
About 100 activists from 20 Karnataka-based human rights organisations gathered outside Bangalore Town Hall on 24 March. Raising slogans, holding candles, they expressed solidarity with Sori. An independent medical examination had confirmed Sori’s allegations of sexual torture. Stones were recovered from her vagina and rectum, which were submitted in a packet to the Supreme Court. Despite this medical evidence, Sori was sent back into the custody of Chhattisgarh police, the same force she accuses of torturing her. Sori accuses Dantewada SP Ankit Garg of having her brutally beaten up, and giving her electric shocks. Shockingly, Garg was awarded a gallantry medal on Republic Day. The activists in Bengaluru burnt an effigy of Ankit Garg, shouting: “Arrest Ankit Garg, Release Soni Sori.” The brutality of police torture was depicted by protesters masquerading as police and victims, while others held up signs condemning the functioning of the justice system and demanding the freedom of prisoners such as Sori and her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, an Adivasi journalist, also accused falsely of abetting the banned CPI(Maoist). They demanded Sori’s immediate transfer out of Raipur Jail, and a speedy hearing of the case. The SC is yet to hear a PIL filed on Sori’s behalf, pending in the court since January. This week, Sori’s lawyers filed another urgent hearing petition in the apex court.