Lodged in Raipur Central Jail she has been on a fast since 21 August, demanding an audience with CM Raman Singh, says Shazia Nigar
In a letter to a Supreme Court judge, Soni Sori has said that it would have been better had she been handed a death penalty. Lodged in Raipur Central Jail she has been on a fast since 21 August, demanding an audience with Chief Minister Raman Singh, to report harassment faced by her and other tribals in the state.
Her lawyer, Amiy Shukla, said, “She was forced to undress in front of 100 other women prisoners on 21 August. She is made to undress for the authorities to search her person. She is usually subjected to such humiliating searches before being taken to the Dantewada court for her trial hearings.”
A teacher in a government primary school in Jabeli, Dantewada, Sori was arrested on 4 October 2011, in Delhi by the Delhi Crime Branch and the Chhattisgarh police on charges of being a “Maoist on the run”. Her tryst with the police began with their hunt for Lingaram Kodopi, her nephew. An activist and journalist documenting the atrocities committed on his people in this war, Lingaram, was arrested on charges of collecting money from the Essar group for the Maoists. Sori was also charged in the same case. The irony of the situation lies in the fact that while Soni Sori and her nephew were battling police charges of being “Naxalite accomplices,” the Maoists attacked her father’s house and shot him on the leg.
She is currently fighting charges under IPC section 121 (waging war against the state); 120(B) (conspiracy); 124(A) (sedition); section 39(1) and 40 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (offense related to contributing to terrorist activity and raising funds for terrorist activity).
Last year, in a chilling case of harassment in custody Sori had sustained head and back injuries, and later a medical examination had revealed forceful insertion of stones into her private parts. Following this incident the Supreme Court had ordered AIIMS to constitute a Special Medical Board to look into her treatment and to ascertain the charges. The findings of the report will be presented in the next hearing.
In a letter addressed to the Supreme Court Judge on 28 July, Sori had alleged that she is “made to sit on the ground naked”, that she was “suffering from hunger,” is “frisked in an uncomfortable manner” and “each part” of her “body is touched”. She also claimed that she is being labelled as a traitor and a Naxalite.
Activist Himanshu Kumar, who was forced to leave Chhattisgarh after his ashram, the same one where Sori received her education, was razed to the ground, says, “Sori in her letter said that the other women in Jagdalpur jail with her are treated even worse. They tell her that at least people outside are speaking on your behalf.” The story of Soni Sori is not her’s alone. It symbolises the very nature of the war that the state is waging on its people.