Soni Sori, a 35-year-old Adivasi school teacher in Chhattisgarh, has been languishing in Raipur Jail since October 2011, she has written letters from jail asking the Nation to help her.
Why is she being tortured?
Soni has been tortured by the Chhattisgarh police - she complained that she was stripped naked and given electric shocks. A medical exam found small stones in her vagina and rectum.
The torture was under the supervision of Ankit Garg, Superintendent of Police. In a terrible twist of events he was given the President's Award on Republic Day.
Soni lives in Dantewada, a Naxalite stronghold. Last year, Soni fought with the Naxalites when they tried to stop her form hoisting the national flag on Independence Day. Naxalites shot her father in the leg saying he was a police informer. Yet the police first arrested her husband, and now Soni, for being Naxalite supporters!
Why do the police want her in jail?
Because she has constantly fought for her people’s rights - for minimum wages. She has taken on powerful companies that want the Adivasis’ land, and the Chhattisgarh government that supports these companies. She has taken on the police for their illegal activities.
Now, fed up of being in jail, far from her three young children, Sori has gone on hunger strike. In a letter to her lawyer she writes: “We Adivasis are only fated to suffer atrocities and die. We Adivasis are a business for the government.’’
This petition demands the following: --- A credible inquiry into the custodial violence suffered by Soni Sori -- Prompt recall of the President’s Gallantry award bestowed on S.P. Ankit Garg, facing serious allegations of custodial torture and sexual violence. -- To constitute a comprehensive and credible inquiry to ensure protection of rights and dignity of the large number of tribal women, like Ms Sori, languishing in jails in Chhattisgarh. -- Ensure an immediate halt and initiate exemplary punitive action against police and other security forces indulging in widespread and systematic violation of rights of tribal women
Stop State Violence against Tribals
Soni Sori continues to be ill-treated at the hands of Chhattisgarh government, after a brief breather of treatment at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at New Delhi. She is now back in the Raipur Jail after spending 5 weeks recuperating in AIIMS, and the Chhattisgarh government has made clear its intentions of continuing ill-treatment of her, by denying her food, water and medicines immediately after discharge from AIIMS.
Soni Sori was brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on May 10th at the behest of the Supreme Court which ordered immediate and urgent treatment to be provided to her. Ms. Sori arrived in Delhi visibly weakened due to months of ill-treatment and denial of medical attention by the Chhattisgarh government. She was suffering from -the wounds inflicted on her during the inhuman sexual torture meted out to her under police custody, which had been allowed to fester untreated in the jail. Consequently, she had grave secondary medical conditions, such as intermittent anal and vaginal bleeding, blisters on skin, difficulty in walking etc. at the time when she was brought to AIIMS
Over the 5 weeks of her treatment in AIIMS, she seemed to have recovered significantly, due to regular and expert medical care provided to her.
But soon after her discharge from AIIMS, the moment she was handed over to the custody of Chhattisgarh police, Soni Sori is being denied her basic human rights yet again. Despite assurances given to Soni Sori’s counsel, Mr. Colin Gonsalves by the Chhattisgarh Government counsel, Mr. Atul Jha, that if need be, Soni would be taken to Raipur by flight, in order to ensure that is no further lapse in her treatment, she was taken to Raipur by train, in a crowded unreserved compartment. In scorching summer heat, she was made to stand for most of the 24 hour long train journey from Delhi to Raipur, despite her fragile health condition. With daytime temperatures touching 45 degrees Celsius, she was denied water, kept without food for the whole day and not even given the medicines prescribed to her by the doctors at AIIMS. The medical team at AIIMS had specifically instructed the Chhattisgarh government to provide for uninterrupted continuation of her medication, due to her frail health, but this medical advice was completely ignored by the Chhattisgarh government.
It should be recalled that Soni Sori, an adivasi school teacher, had been subjected to brutal physical torture and sexual violence during her custody in the Dantewada police station on the night between 8th and 9th October, 2011. Her torture had been confirmed by an independent medical examination conducted by the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata, during which stones lodged deep in her private parts had been recovered. However, the medication prescribed by the NRS hospital had been discontinued by the jail authorities in Raipur Jail soon after her discharge, and Soni Sori had been denied any regular medical attention since the examination conducted by the NRS Hospital in October 2011. In the absence of regular medical care and attention, Ms. Sori’s condition had steadily worsened, prompting the Supreme Court in June 2012 to order her to be brought to AIIMS in New Delhi for immediate medical treatment.
It was sheer and deliberate negligence on part of the Chhattisgarh Government that led to such deterioration in Soni Sori’s health in the first place, that the Supreme Court had to order immediate medical intervention by AIIMS. The manner in which Soni Sori is being treated after her discharge from AIIMS once again raises serious concerns about the intention of the Chhattisgarh government in ensuring her health and safety. If her medicines are not administered with regularity, Soni will lose the little gains in health that she had made during her stay at AIIMS.
I urge the Chhattisgarh Government to ensure that Soni Sori’s health makes full recovery, and that the recommendations of the medical team at AIIMS regarding physical rest, nutrition and medication are followed diligently. We would like to remind the Government that undertrial prisoners such as Soni Sori are guaranteed basic human rights by the Indian constitution.
Soni Sori has already suffered gravely at the hands of Chhattisgarh authorities, first through direct and malicious torture at the hands of the Chhattisgarh police, and then through apathy and negligence of the Chhattisgarh jail authorities. It is time for state violence against her to end.