THERE IS a battle that is described in court papers as Soni Sori vs the State of Chhattisgarh. Sori, 35, is a school teacher from Jabeli, accused of supporting the banned CPI(Maoist). She denies all the charges.
In September, she was fired upon in the jungles of Chhattisgarh. Fearing for her life, she fled to New Delhi. On 7 October, she was arrested and sent back to Chhattisgarh. When she pleaded with a Delhi magistrate to keep her in the capital, he had said, “Not all police are bad.”
Those following Sori’s story understand why this is not her battle alone. Last month, hearing a PIL filed by Sori’s lawyers, which alleges she was tortured in police custody, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered a Kolkata hospital to conduct an independent medical exam. The report by NRS Medical College has confirmed the allegations. It describes two stones recovered from her vagina and one from her rectum. The stones were subsequently sent to the SC. Medical sources showed this correspondent images of the stones. Despite all assurances, the sources, fearing for their safety, didn’t allow TEHELKA to publish them.
Their fear is not unwarranted. This report is a key weapon in the battle. That is why several high-profile teams visited the hospital last month. Sources say that teams from the CBI, the West Bengal CID and the Chhattisgarh Police visited Dr SK Santra, superintendent of NRS Medical College, to request unofficial copies of the report. “The West Bengal CM wants to see the report,” a CID officer told Dr Santra.
That is why this battle is not Sori’s alone; it is not being waged in Chhattisgarh alone. What happens here will get in the way of how history books can describe India’s war against its ‘gravest internal security threat’. What happens here will get in way, perhaps, of how India can describe itself. It is now the description of stones.
Sources told TEHELKA that the gynaecological exam of Sori reveals: “Two objects seen in the fornices, one blackish and one brownish, 2.5 x 1.5 x 1 cm.” The rectum exam found: “An irregular hard object, brownish in colour, was manually removed.” This matches the images TEHELKA has seen. Further, an MRI scan of her lower spine reveals “annular tears”, corroborating allegations that Sori was brutally beaten in custody.
The medical report was submitted before the SC on 2 December. Subsequently, in a perplexing order, the SC allowed the Chhattisgarh government 45 days to respond – the next hearing is on 23 January – and sent Sori back into their custody. After pleas from her lawyer that she be shifted to a prison outside the state, the SC itself asked for her transfer from Bastar to Raipur Jail. There are fears about what might happen during that 385 km journey in police custody.
Asked to explain the stones, Dantewada SP Ankit Garg insisted the allegations are fabricated. “She was in our custody for only 48 hours from 8-10 October. It is a medical miracle if someone with stones inserted in her private parts can survive so long,” he told TEHELKA.
In a letter sent to her family from jail, a copy of which is with TEHELKA, Sori specifically accused Garg. “He has taken my all. I have been tortured in ways I can’t describe here,” she wrote. “I pray to God that nothing happens to me until I have given my testimony to the SC.” At present, Sori is in judicial custody for attacking a Congress leader, bombing a tehsil office, and couriering funds to the Maoist party. TEHELKA earlier detailed how the cases are fabricated, and how Sori is an innocent tribal caught in the crossfire. (Refer to The Inconvenient Truth of Soni Sori, 15 October). “I don’t know how this struggle will end. Sometimes the condition of my body becomes quite serious,” Sori added, “but my struggle is not mine alone.”
Tusha Mittal is a Principal Correspondent with Tehelka.