Soni Sori, Kodopi acquitted of murder charges #Goodnews #Justice


SUVOJIT BAGCHI, May 1, 2013

Soni Sori, the tribal school teacher accused of acting as a courier between Essar Steel and the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), and Lingaram Kodopi, the activist-journalist trained in Delhi, have been acquitted in one more crucial case by Dantewada court.

The case filed in 2010 by Dantewada police alleged that Ms Sori and Lingaram Kodopi are among several others involved in planning and executing an attack on local Congress leader, Avdesh Singh Gautam, in which two persons were killed.

15 others, including activists of various mainstream political parties, who were booked with Ms Sori were also acquitted. Congress leader Vijay Sodi, CPI leader Lala Ram Kunjam and a Panchayat member of Dantewada, Sannuram Mandawi are among the accused who got acquitted on Wednesday.

Soni Sori has now been acquitted in six out of eight cases filed against her.

A FIR filed in Kuakonda police station in Dantewada court said that on 7 July, 2010 midnight, more than 150 Maoist soldiers attacked local Congress leader and contractor Avdesh Singh Gautam’s house. Mr Gautam’s brother in law, Sanjay Singh and house attendant Dharmendra were killed, while his son and a guard were injured.

17 accused, including Ms Sori and Mr Kodopi, were present at the scene of crime, said Mr Gautam, according to the FIR. On basis of available evidences and witness’ statements several charges were brought against the accused under Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and Explosive Substance Act which includes criminal conspiracy, rioting, arson causing death, and attempt to murder, besides a host of other allegations.

“Due to lack of enough and proper evidence additional sessions Judge Anita Dehariya acquitted Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi and others,” said Ms Sori’s lawyer in Dantewada K K Dubey on phone.

In February, this year, Ms. Sori was acquitted in two other cases. One in which, she was accused to have opened fire and used explosives to blow up vehicles of Essar Steel. In another, she was accused of firing on police near Essar Beneficiation Plant in Kirandul. “Witnesses could not confirm her involvement,” Mr. Dubey told The Hindu earlier. Last year, Ms. Sori was acquitted in two more cases.

Two more cases against Ms Sori are still in court. One of the allegations, pending in Bacheli court, accused Ms Sori of torching several vehicles. In the other case – the most crucial one – pending in Dantewada court, it is alleged that Ms Sori and Mr Kodopi were planning to hand over “protection money” from Essar Steel to the Maoists. D.V.C.S. Verma, the general manager at an Essar steel plant, and B.K. Lala, one of Essar’s contractors, were arrested in the same case, allegedly for disbursing money. According to police, Mr. Kodopi and Ms. Sori were carrying the money to the rebels. While Ms Sori and Mr Kodopi are languishing in jail, like thousands of tribal under trials (UTs) of south Chhattisgarh, two of their co-accused, Mr Verma and Mr Lala, got bail soon within months after the arrest.

90 per cent cases against tribals are concocted

Ashok Jain, a senior lawyer of Dantewada, representing some of the accused, who got acquitted with Ms Sori, said Wednesday’s judgement proves how tribals are detained under “false charges.”

“These tribals are detained under completely concocted charges, at least most of them. Their families get ruined as they spend several years as undertrials. Whenever the cases are followed well, like the case of Soni Sori, the accused gets acquitted,” Mr Jain said.

A battery of lawyers representing the high profile case of Ms Sori and other accused feel, while the case of Soni Sori or Dr Binayak Sen got enough “attention from all quarters,” cases of thousands of undertrial tribals are getting “absolutely no attention from media or civil society.”

“Most of these cases are so flimsy that higher courts may not even admit those or the accused will get bail within hours of admission. But lack of financial and people’s support, keep these tribals behind bars for years,” said one of the lawyers. “How can a poor tribal be arrested for just being a resident of an area controlled by the Maoists or sharing a lunch with the rebels, possibly under duress,” said another lawyer.

Ms Sori’s lawyers, however, sounded optimistic and said they have moved a bail petition in Chhattisgarh High Court. “I hope, Ms Sori and others will get bail soon after this acquittal in a crucial case,” said Mr Dubey.

PRESS RELEASE- Demonstration in San Francisco against VAW in India


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press contacts:

Vinay Bhat

Cell: +1 412.527.7985


Protesters  Demand Justice for victims and  punishment for perpetrators


Against a background of ever-increasing reports of rape and other violence on women in India, several individuals gathered on Sunday, March 3rd, in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to stand in solidarity with victims and survivors of gender violence in India. The gathering was organized by the Bay Area chapter of the Association for India’s Development (AID). Given the growing outrage in India as a result of the recent rape case in Delhi, the protestors wanted to raise awareness and express anger against the alarming incidence of violence. This event marked special mention of Soni Sori, an adivasi school teacher currently held in the Central Jail in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh, India. Similar protests have also been organized in other cities including Boston, London and several cities in India in the week leading up to the International Women’s Day on March 8th. Soni Sori has been the symbol of global protests in the past due to the custodial rape and torture she had to face from the jail authorities.

Sori was arrested in New Delhi on October 4, 2011 and accused of being a Maoist supporter. Despite her appeals to courts in New Delhi, she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police and taken to the state where she was beaten, sexually assaulted and given electric shocks by the police. Sori documented her torture in letters she wrote to her lawyer, and which have since been widely publicized.

Participants raised slogans and sang songs against patriarchy. They demanded freedom for Sori and punishment for her torturers. Anitha Majji, a software professional in the Bay Area expressed outrage and on being asked why she was there, responded “Soni Sori must be freed immediately, and the State must be held accountable. The sexual torture she had to go through is unacceptable.” It is noteworthy to mention that Sori has been acquitted in four out of the eight cases in which she was charged.

Participants also spoke of the layered violence that women face as a result of gender, class,caste and racial oppression. The Delhi  gang rape  sparked massive protests in India, and women got on the streets in huge numbers to make themselves heard. “Because I’m a woman, that’s why it’s important. We have to have more freedom, freedom of the press, freedom of the news, freedom to print whatever that comes in that’s against women. We  need to be heard all over the world. We need to be heard.” said Angie Bannister, a retired nurse. Organizers assured that this is just one in a many series of actions to speak against the injustice and violence that women face on a daily basis.

 

#India- Rape Debate Widens in India #Vaw


Claim of Abuse in Police Custody Puts Attention on Authorities

By TOM WRIGHT And GEETA ANAND
[image] Garima Jain/TehelkaSoni Sori was arrested in New Delhi on charges of being a Maoist. In an open letter to the lawyer representing her in the Supreme Court, Ms. Sori says she was sexually assaulted while in custody.

SAMELI, India—Soni Sori, a mother of three and teacher in her forest village, was arrested in 2011, accused of aiding leftist rebels who are fighting a war against the Indian government in a wide swath of the country,

Ms. Sori alleges that soon after her arrest, a police superintendent at the local police station ordered her stripped and junior officers inserted hard objects into her body until she blacked out from the pain.

Lawyers for Ms. Sori then filed a petition in India’s Supreme Court seeking an independent medical examination of their client. Two weeks later, the court ordered such a test and doctors found three stones in her body.

In an open letter to the lawyer representing her in the Supreme Court, Ms. Sori made the allegations of sexual assault in custody. Police have denied the allegations.

[image] Shailendra Pandey/TehelkaSoni Sori, accused of aiding leftist rebels, at a New Delhi court in 2011. She has alleged assault in custody.

Anger After a Rape

Dec. 16 A student is raped on a bus in New Delhi

Dec. 22 Protesters calling for harsher punishments for rapists clash with police.

Dec. 23 A panel headed by former Chief Justice J.S. Verma is appointed to suggest law changes to reduce sexual assault.

Dec 29 Bus rape victim dies

Jan. 23 Panel recommends changing law that shields armed forces from prosecution for rape in conflict areas; suggests up to 10-year prison terms for senior officers who allow rape to occur on their watch.

Feb. 3–indian president passes ordinance that would increase maximum penalty for rape to death from life imprisonment but ignores verma recommendation on removing barriers for trying armed forces personnel for rape.

WSJ reporting

The Supreme Court is expected to decide soon whether to allow a special investigation of Ms. Sori’s allegations. Meanwhile, she remains in jail in the state of Chhattisgarh.

Indian authorities are attempting to contain public anger over the prevalence of sexual assault in Indian society—a problem in focus since the rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi in December.

But human-rights groups say that efforts to safeguard female safety can’t succeed unless the issue of rape and other sexual assault of women while in police or military custody is dealt with aggressively.

A report last month by a panel headed by former Indian Chief Justice J.S. Verma, convened by India’s government to look at strengthening rape and other laws related to sexual assault and harassment, singled out rape in custody as a major problem. The report recommended prison terms of up to 10 years for police and military commanding officers who fail to stop rape and sexual assault occurring in custody on their watch. It also said India should review laws that protect security personnel from prosecution for rape while serving in conflict areas.

“This is why the Verma commission is so important. It’s looked on the state as a perpetrator not just a protector,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, who heads the Indian operations of New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The problem, though, will be uncovering instances of sexual assault in custody. Many cases go unreported, human-rights groups say.

There were only nine cases involving custodial-rape accusations awaiting trial at the start of 2011 out of 95,065 total cases of rape, according to National Crime Records Bureau statistics. Of those, eight were pending at the end of the year and one case ended in an acquittal of the accused rapist. There were no convictions.

Efforts to stop custodial rape in the past have failed. In 1972, in the western state of Maharashtra, a 16-year-old tribal girl was allegedly raped in a police station after her family had gone there to register an unrelated complaint. Her family lodged a criminal complaint against two officers. The Supreme Court eventually threw out the case, saying the girl’s body bore no outward signs of rape.

The ruling sparked protests by women’s groups across the country. Four law professors wrote an open letter of complaint to the chief justice about the ruling.

The movement led to amendments, in 1983, to the criminal law that dealt with rape. The changes included a new category of rape for offenses committed when a victim is in custody of the state. In such a situation, the law said a court should presume a woman who says she didn’t consent is telling the truth. Previously, the law was silent on the matter of rape in detention.

Still, women’s groups say such legislation hasn’t stopped custodial rape occurring in remote rural areas and in parts of the country where the military is covered by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, legislation which shields security personnel from prosecution in areas of armed conflict.

In 2004 in Manipur, a northeastern state where a low-grade separatist conflict has simmered for decades, a 32-year-old woman was allegedly raped and killed by soldiers. After protests, the state government ordered a probe but none of the alleged perpetrators faced trial, shielded by the army-immunity act.

The Verma committee, in its report last month, said India should consider reforming the act, a promise made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government but opposed by the army.

“Sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel must be brought under the purview of ordinary criminal law,” the report said.

Ms. Sori’s case has reignited the debate about custodial assault. Human-rights groups say they don’t know whether her allegations are true but criticize the government for so far failing to order an independent inquiry. “Do you only accept the police version?” asked Ms. Ganguly of Human Rights Watch. “There has been no independent investigation so far. It suggests that as a state we have no desire to view with sympathy the allegations of a woman.”Ms. Sori and her nephew have denied the charges. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal two years ago, before her arrest, Ms. Sori painted a picture of being caught between two warring sides. Police had tried to recruit her nephew, who later was kidnapped by Maoists for cooperating with Indian authorities, before being released, she said.

Ms. Sori’s home district is at the center of the battle that has raged since the 1960s between Maoist rebels claiming to be fighting for the rights of locals and the Indian government.

In 2011, police arrested Ms. Sori’s nephew for allegedly collecting protection money for Maoists. Police allege Ms. Sori also was involved but had escaped. She later was arrested in New Delhi and transferred to Chhattisgarh.

On Oct. 8, 2011, Ms. Sori claims in documents filed with the Supreme Court that Ankit Garg, a police superintendent in Chhattisgarh, ordered junior officers to molest her, including pushing hard objects into her body.

Mr. Garg, the police superintendent, denied the allegations against him and in an interview he disputed as impossible the finding that inserted stones had stayed in Ms. Sori’s body for 16 days. A year ago, police awarded Mr. Garg a medal for acts of bravery during an earlier counterinsurgency operation against Maoists. Rajesh Kukreja, a senior police official in Dantewada, the district where Ms. Sori’s village is located, claimed she had concocted the story of abuse. “It is an act of manipulation to discredit [the police] and to divert the attention of the investigating agency,” he said.

Two days later, Ms. Sori didn’t show up for a local court hearing, and state authorities said she had slipped in the bathroom and injured herself, according to court documents.

At the request of Ms. Sori’s lawyers, the Supreme Court sent her two weeks later to be examined at a hospital in the much larger city of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal state. Doctors there reported finding the stones inside her, according to a medical report filed in court.

Ms. Sori’s lawyer, Amiy Shukla, said the suggestion Ms. Sori had herself inserted the stones is false and her allegations would hold if the Supreme Court ordered an investigation.

 

A version of this article appeared February 15, 2013, on page A12 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Rape Debate Widens in India.

 

Soni Sori acquitted in 4th case; lawyers to move HC for bail #Vaw


 Indian State honours monster - Justice for  #SoniSori #Vaw

Feb 15, 2013, 03.47AM IST TNN

RAIPUR: It feels like a ray of light in a darkened past and the pessimistic-looking future of Soni Sori, the 36-year-old frail adivasi teacher in Chhattisgarh, after her brutal custodial torture that shows the rotten side of our state machinery. She has been acquitted in a case filed against her and 19 others of opening fire and using explosives to blast the vehicles of Essar Steel. Her lawyers now plan to move the high court for her bail in other cases pending against her.

“With this acquittal, Sori has been discharged from four out of eight cases registered against her by the Dantewada police in connection with almost all the Naxal-related incidents that took place in the region between July 7, 2010 and September 2011,” her laywer K K Dubey told TOI on phone from Dantewada. “The case of the prosecution collapsed like a pack of cards,” Dubey added.

Dantewada additional sessions judge Anita Dehariya on February 12 acquitted Sori as none of the witnesses could come forward with any statement to link her with a case that was registered against her back in 2010. Sori’s story is a painful document revealing the different shades of the bleak reality of adivasis caught in the crossfire between the Indian state and the Chhattigarh police on one side and the Naxals on the other.

Sori was arrested on October 4, 2011 in New Delhi, when she was on the run, on unproven allegations of being a Maoist sympathizer and acting as a conduit to extort Rs 1.5 million for the banned CPI (Maoist) from the Essar group. Sori was handed over to the Chhattigarh police despite her insistence that she was being framed by them. An independent medical examination of Sori at NRS Medical College, Kolkata, at the behest of the Supreme Court found stones lodged in her vagina and rectum. TOI has a copy of the medical report of the Kolkata hospital that confirms her claims.

Sori has said that she was pulled out of her cell at the Dantewada police station on the intervening night of October 8 and 9, 2011 and then taken to SP Ankit Garg’s room, where on his orders, three men stripped her, gave her electric shocks and inserted stones into her private parts. She lost consciousness. A few months later, SP Ankit Garg was awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry by the government for his role in a counter-insurgency operation in 2010.

The Essar case and another case on Maoist attack on Congress leader Avdesh Singh Gautam are the two crucial cases still under trial. In the Essar case of payment of protection money to the banned CPI (Maoists), Essar General Manager D V C S Verma and contractor B K Lala are out on bail while Sori and her activist nephew Linga Kodopi are still in judicial custody.

 

 

Soni Sori acquitted in crucial case, lawyer optimistic of speedy Essar trial #goodnews #vaw


SUVOJIT BAGCHI, The Hindu, feb 14

A file photo of a protest by the All India Students<br />
Association in New Delhi seeking the release of<br />
tribal activist Soni Sori. Photo: V.V.Krishnan” src=”<a href=http://www.thehindu.com/multimedia/dynamic/01363/14TH_CITY_SONISORI_1363013f.jpg&#8221; />
A file photo of a protest by the All India Students Association in New Delhi seeking the release of tribal activist Soni Sori. Photo: V.V.Krishnan

Soni Sori, the tribal accused of acting as a courier between Essar Steel and the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist), has been acquitted in a crucial case filed in 2010 by the Dantewada district police against 19 individuals for allegedly opening fire and using explosives to blow vehicles of Essar. Ms Sori was one of the key accused in the case.

“But the additional sessions court of Anita Dehariya could not find enough evidence to substantiate the allegations and hence Ms. Sori was acquitted yesterday [Tuesday],” said Ms. Sori’s lawyer K.K. Dubey. Ms. Sori was arrested in 2011 by the Chhattisgarh police for allegedly arranging transfer of money from the privately-owned Essar Group to the members of the banned CPI (Maoist). Altogether, six cases were registered against her and she has been acquitted in four cases so far.

Hole in prosecution case

The witnesses presented before the court could not relate Ms. Sori to the case (sessions trial number 5/11) of firing and burning vehicles using diesel and explosives. “None of the witnesses presented by the police could connect Soni to the incident and that left a gaping hole in the prosecution,” said Mr. Dubey. Incidentally, Ms. Sori was acquitted in another case about a week back. In that case, (sessions trial number 4/11) the allegation was of firing on police near Essar Beneficiation Plant in Kirandul. “There also, witnesses could not confirm if Soni was related to firing on the police,” Mr. Dubey said. . Last year, Ms. Sori was acquitted in two more cases related to firing in Kuakonda police station and burning of a block office. “However, the more critical allegations against Ms. Sori acting as a courier between Essar and the CPI (Maoist) and the attack on Congress leader Avdesh Singh Gautam are continuing,” said Mr. Dubey.

Iconic figure

Ms. Sori — a tribal woman with three children — has emerged as an iconic figure symbolising the State’s attitude toward tribals since her arrest in October, 2011. Ms. Sori’s letter to her lawyer claiming that she was sexually assaulted in police custody under the direct supervision of a police officer, Ankit Garg, became a global rallying point on tribal atrocities. While Mr. Garg and the police continuously denied all the allegations, hundreds of intellectuals, academics, and civil society activists signed petitions, demanding justice for Ms. Sori — a ‘Stand Up For Soni Sori’ campaign was launched across the country. In major cities like London or New York, activists took to the streets, building up the case internationally for Ms. Sori and her 24-year-old activist-journalist relative, Lingaram Kodopi.

Interestingly, while Mr. Kodopi and Ms. Sori both are languishing in jail, like the other 2,000 tribal undertrials of south Chhattisgarh, for allegedly working with the Maoists, two of their co-accused got bail soon after the arrest.

D.V.C.S. Verma, the general manager at an Essar steel plant, and B.K. Lala, one of Essar’s contractors, were arrested in the same case allegedly for paying protection money to the Maoists, which according to police, Mr. Kodopi and Ms. Sori were carrying to the rebels. In fact, Mr. Lala was caught with Mr. Kodopi in the same Palnar market where allegedly Ms. Sori was also present.

While both Mr. Verma and Mr. Lala have been out on bail for a year, Ms. Sori and Mr. Kodopi are both behind bars in Bastar’s jails. Activists associated with the case feel that this is another ‘glaring example’ of injustice to the tribals. Ms. Sori’s lawyer, however, sounds optimistic: “Her acquittal in the all the minor cases may give her a speedy trial in the Essar case now.”

 

IADHRI Demands Liberty and Justice for All Indian Citizens #India #republicday #vaw


Republic Day of India, 2013
Contact: iadhri.org@gmail.com

Calls for investigation and punishment of police officials Garg and Kalluri and withdrawal of their presidential medals

On January 26th, 2013, India celebrates its 64th Republic Day. The anniversary of the Indian Constitution’s adoption is always a time for not just celebration, but for reflection; a time to take stock of how far the nation has come in securing, for all its citizens, justice, liberty and equality as enshrined in the Constitution.

Over the last month, the rape and subsequent death of a young woman in Delhi – a particularly brutal incident, yet only one in an endless series of similar crimes that are reported, month after month, if they are reported at all – triggered international shock and outrage. The incident served as a stark reminder that, decades after the adoption of the Constitution, the liberty to live our lives without fear remains unsecured. For women in many communities across the country, especially those on the economic and social margins, such as dalits and adivasis, this insecurity permeates the fabric of day to day life – sexual assault, violence, imprisonment and threats thereof are commonplace. In any discussion of the questions that the gang-rape in Delhi raises, it is to these women and to these communities that we must look: the truest measure of a society lies in how it treats those who have the least power. None of us is safer or freer than the most vulnerable among us.

In the last few weeks, there has been much discussion on how to make sure that survivors of rape and violence receive justice consistently and rapidly. It is worth remembering, as these discussions take place, the spectacular failure of our judiciary and democratic processes in delivering justice to Soni Sori, the adivasi school teacher and mother of three from Chhattisgarh who has been incarcerated since October 2011 [1]. A year ago this January 26th, India awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry to an officer, SP Ankit Garg, despite compelling medical evidence that Sori was tortured and sexually assaulted while under his custody [2].

This is not an isolated case, but part of a pattern of such incidents. In a bizarre repetition of last year’s act of rewarding-the-perpetrator, the Government of India has decided to confer the President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Service this Republic Day, January 26th 2013, to Inspector General of Police S.R.P. Kalluri, who has well-documented rape accusations against him in Chhattisgarh [3, 4].

Sori’s petition in the Supreme Court as well as the cases in which Sori has been falsely charged have been subject to repeated delays. In the interim, neither the elected Government, nor independent bodies such as the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the National Commission for Women (NCW), have instituted serious investigations into the indications that Sori was tortured- her fingers seem to have been blackened from electric shocks and doctors recovered stones that had been thrust into her vagina and rectum. Indeed, the NCW revealed last October that it had closed its inquiry into the case, and has remained silent since, apart from making an anodyne recommendation of providing psychological counseling to Sori [5]. Although, on January 8th 2013, the Supreme Court granted Sori’s plea to be shifted to Jagdalpur jail, to be closer to her family [6], she remains in the custody of those who stand accused of torturing her.

Sori has spoken to a legal team of the humiliation and violence that she and other women prisoners are routinely subjected to. Besides this, jails in Chhattisgarh have an occupancy rate of around 256%, with 13,918 individuals incarcerated in space built to accommodate 5,430. The all-India rate is 110% [7]. Between 2001-2010, an average of four individuals died each day in police custody [8].

What makes these statistics all the more disturbing is that a majority of those imprisoned are under-trials such as Sori, who have not been convicted of any crime. The prolonged detention of these individuals – often for years altogether, as their cases move sluggishly through the judicial system amounts to an unconstitutional deprivation of the liberty of lawfully innocent citizens.

Indeed, the state increasingly uses the process of trial as a punishment in itself, as in the case of Kartam Joga, a man who, for years, tirelessly sought accountability for human rights violations by state forces in Chhattisgarh. On January 7th, 2013, a trial court acquitted Joga of all of a panoply of fabricated charges [9]; an innocent man thus spent the past two and a half years of his life in jail. Lingaram Kodopi (Sori’s nephew), a 25-year old journalist who worked to document abuses by security forces, remains imprisoned, awaiting trial, even as local police officers have been recorded admitting that the charges against him are fabricated [1]. Kodopi has also suffered custodial violence [10]. Numerous others have been thus imprisoned on the weakest of grounds seemingly as punishment for criticising the state’s actions or for otherwise challenging local authorities. Although we welcome the release of Kartam Joga and others who have been put through similar ordeals, the state must cease its intimidation and harassment of those who seek to hold it accountable to its own people.

In the 2G spectrum case, the Supreme Court recently commented that “this court has time and again stated that bail is the rule and committal to jail an exception… The courts owe more than verbal respect to the principle that punishment begins after conviction, and that every man is deemed to be innocent until duly tried and duly found guilty” [11]. This is a sound and practical principle; we ask that it be invoked not only in the trials of the influential but also in the trials of the weak and marginalized.

If we are to continue to place our trust in the rights that the Constitution upholds and seeks to guarantee every citizen in India, if we are to address the deep-rooted issue of violence against women, then we must be able to ensure liberty and justice to those who are the most vulnerable in our societies. To that end, we demand:

  • Ensure a speedy, free and  fair trials for Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi.

  • Conduct an independent and impartial investigation of incidents of sexual violence against women, including Soni Sori, committed by the police and other security forces; prosecute the responsible officers and impose exemplary punishment on those found guilty. Withdraw the Presidential Gallantry Awards given to Police Superintendent Ankit Garg and Inspector General of Police S.R.P. Kalluri.

  • Grant unconditional bail to undertrials from socially and economically marginalised communites, languishing in jails in Chhattisgarh and across India.

  • Ensure that all cases, particularly those against individuals from marginalised communities, are disposed of in a timely manner so that the process of securing justice is not a punishment in itself.

  • Constitute a grievance redressal mechanism for individuals who have been wrongly detained or subject to custodial violence.

International Alliance for the Defence of Human Rights in India (IADHRI)

[1] Tehelka: ‘The Inconvenient Truth Of Soni Sori’
http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ne151011coverstory.asp

[2] The Hindu: ‘Soni Sori case: HRW wants PM to order impartial probe on torture’
http://www.thehindu.com/news/states/soni-sori-case-hrw-wants-pm-to-order-impartial-probe-on-torture/article2971330.ece

[3] Statement of protest and demand for withdrawal of Meritorious Service award to S.R.P. Kalluri
http://iadhri.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/statement-of-protest-and-demand-for-withdrawal-of-meritorious-service-award-to-srp-kalluri/

[4] Ledha Bai’s Statement Against S.R.P. Kalluri
https://iadhri.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/ledha-bais-statement-against-srp-kalluri/

[5]Tehelka: ‘NCW first shuts, then reopens Soni Sori’s case’
http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main54.asp?filename=Ws101012Chhattisgarh.asp

[6] Press Trust of India: ‘SC allows Soni Sori to be shifted to Jagdalpur Central Jail’
http://www.business-standard.com/generalnews/news/sc-allows-soni-sori-to-be-shifted-to-jagdalpur-central-jail/106440/.

[7]National Crime Records Bureau: http://ncrb.nic.in/PSI-2011/TABLE-2.1.pdf

[8]Tehelka:  ‘Four custodial deaths daily over the last decade’
http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=Ws211111HUMAN_RIGHTS.asp

[9]Amnesty International: ‘India frees prisoner of conscience Kartam Joga’
https://www.amnesty.org/en/news/india-frees-prisoner-conscience-kartam-joga-2013-01-08

[10] Committee to Protect Journalists: ‘In India, imprisoned journalist’s plea for help’
http://cpj.org/blog/2012/06/in-india-imprisoned-journalists-plea-for-help.php

[11] The Hindu: ‘‘Respect principle that punishment begins after conviction’’
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2652745.ece

 

#India-Rape cases we forgot: Soni Sori, Chhattisgarh’s prisoner of conscience


CHHATTISGARH, Posted on Jan 04, 2013 at

 brutal gangrape and subsequent death of the 23-year-old medical student has galvanised a nation with questionable gender parity, it is difficult to place the story of Soni Sori, the young tribal teacher from Chhattisgarh, in the ongoing introspection and legislation against sexual violence. If there is a growing national consensus against sexual violence, there is also the same consensus among most of the urban agitators at India Gate and other cities to rid the nation of the Naxal problem. And when the police and security forces, assigned the task of eliminating the Maoists from India’s forests and hinterlands, adopt sexual violence as one of their tools, the discourse over rape and gender justice is muddled.

Sori, in police custody since October 2011 at the Raipur Central Jail, was arrested on charges of being a courier between Maoists and the Essar group. In custody, Sori was not only allegedly raped at the Dantewada police station, but tortured too with stones inserted into her private parts. Her health since the assault has been deteriorating and activists fear she may lose her life before her plea for bail is addressed by the courts. In her many letters, Soni has been complaining of bad health and being denied sustenance. “Giving electric shocks, stripping me naked, shoving stones inside me – is this going to solve the Naxal problem,” she once asked in a letter to the Supreme Court.

Activists insist Sori was jailed for questioning human rights violations by police and security forces in the state. “Chhattisgarh has an unwritten set of rules about how an adivasi should behave. You don’t organise, you don’t agitate, you don’t protest against human rights violations, you don’t protest against the state, and you certainly don’t protest against industrial houses that are in Bastar to usher in the industrial revolution,” Himanshu Kumar, member of the Chhattisgarh chapter of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), said. Sori has also been termed as a prisoner of conscience by the Amnesty International in 2012.

Kavita Krishnan, Secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, slammed the recent National Commission for Women member Shamina Shafiq’s visit to Soni Sori in a Raipur jail. The NCW member, after the meeting, said Sori is doing fine and that she only needs psychological counselling. Calling the statement ‘outrageous’, Krishnan demanded the immediate release of Sori since ‘she continues to be in the captivity of her rapists’. The crucial hearing of her case in the Supreme Court, scheduled for Thursday, was deferred until Tuesday without citing any reason.

Meanwhile, a section of the anti-rape protesters in Delhi has included Sori’s story in India’s fight against sexual violence. On Wednesday, members of the All India Students’ Association (AISA), along with several intellectuals and political leaders including Aam Aadmi Party’s Prashant Bhushan and social activist Swami Agnivesh, staged a silent march, demanding Sori’s release. “She has been repeatedly subjected to the most barbaric and repulsive sexual abuse in police custody – two separate medical reports has shown evidence of stones being shoved into her private parts. And yet, despite repeated protests, no action has been taken till now,” a statement issued by AISA said.

The Delhi protesters also demanded punishment for Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg who allegedly ordered the sexual torture of Sori. Garg was awarded the president’s medal in 2012 for professional excellence. In the continuing tragedy of Chhattisgarh, one of the worst hit by Maoist insurgency, Sori, despite the sexual violence and torture, remains just one amongst its many dramatis personae.

 

Silent march to demand release of #sonisori from jail #Vaw


SONI5

 

Press Trust of India / New Delhi January 02, 2013, 22:15

Members of All India Students’ Association, along with several intellectuals, today staged a silent march here, demanding the release of suspected Maoist activist and victim of custodial torture Soni Sori.

Sori, who has been in the police custody for the last one year, was allegedly subjected to sexual violence at Dantewada police station in Chhattisgarh.

The protesters demanded the immediate release of Sori who is currently lodged in Raipur Central jail.

“She has been repeatedly subjected to the most barbaric and repulsive sexual abuse in police custody – two separate medical reports has shown evidence of stones being shoved into her private parts. And yet, despite repeated protests, no action has been taken till now,” a statement issued by AISA said.

The protesters also demanded punishment for Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg who allegedly ordered the sexual torture of Sori.

The rally was attended by several intellectuals and political leaders including AAP‘s senior leader Prashant Bhushan and social activist Swami Agnivesh.

Accusing Delhi police of violating rules while handling protesters, AISA leader and former JNUSU President Sucheta De said they were repeatedly stopped despite holding a non-violent demonstration.

“Time and again, the protesters had to evade and dodge the police. Women activists, who were silently marching, were stopped and pushed by male police, which is a clear violation of rules”, she said.

Sori was arrested last year after being accused of acting as a courier for taking extortion money for Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

 

Call for Action ! Send #SoniSori a Postcard #actnow #mustshare


 

 

Soni Sori’s struggle for justice gets solidarity from various parts of the country

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) has launched a solidarity campaign for Soni Sori incarcerated in Raipur jail for the past one year under false charges of being a Maoist engaged in extortion and violence.

In two of the eight cases fabricated against her by the Dantewada police, Soni Sori has already been acquitted. In a third significant case in which she, her husband and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi are all charged and imprisoned,  the key eye witness, Avadhesh Gautam, has given vital testimony on  27th September 2012, confirming that none of these three were present at the incident site.  This corroborates what Soni Sori has been saying all this while, that the Chhattisgarh police have been foisting all these false cases against her and her family, merely in order to harass and punish them for refusing to obey the illegal diktats of the Chhattisgarh police.

Soni Sori is an ordinary school teacher in Chhattisgarh, who chose to think and act independently and refused to go with either the Maoists or the state security forces.  However, her cries of being only an ordinary school teacher, albeit with an independent mind, have fallen on deaf ears. She was arrested in Delhi on 4th October 2011 and remanded to police custody of Chhattisgarh police on 7th October 2011 for three days. It was during those three days that she was subjected to heinous violence and sexual torture under the orders of the Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg. Ironically, instead of being suspended, SP Ankit Garg was decorated with the President’s Police Medal of Gallantry on the occasion of the Republic Day earlier this year.

While her tormentor was thus feted, Soni Sori was left to deal with the physical and mental trauma of the torture on her own and even visitors from reputed womens’ groups through out the country, who only wanted to offer her solidarity, were refused permission to meet her in jail. But instead of breaking her spirit, the state only managed to break her silence and Soni Sori wrote at length about the degrading treatment she was subjected to. An appeal before the Supreme Court gave her a partial respite and she was sent to Kolkata for a physical examination, where stones were discovered from her private parts proving the terrible torture that she was subjected to. Chhattisgarh government has not relented and did not even provide her the recommended medical treatment.

Soni Sori is a spirited woman and has been on extended hunger strikes in the jail to push for humane treatment of prisoners. On the occasion of the birth Centenary of Shaheed Bhagat Singh a post card campaign has been launched where people from across the country will send her post cards to express their solidarity with her struggle for justice.

It should be recalled that Bhagat Singh also used his incarceration to further his political message and nothing could break his spirit.

WSS calls upon everyone to join in this campaign. Post cards were signed in Delhi, Bhopal and Indore today to launch the campaign and were sent to Soni Sori, Central Jail Raipur, Chhattisgarh 492001

PLEASE SIGN ONLINE PETITION FOR HER RELEASE !!

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Soni Sori’s story: propaganda and prejudice #Indianexpress


The writer has failed to study the factors that are central to understanding how the Maoist conflict affects individuals. Pre-conceived notions surface at every stage in the story, says ARITRA BHATTACHARYA
Posted/Updated Friday, Aug 10 15:28:45, 2012, The Hoot
“Soni’s Story” (published by The Sunday Express on August 5 on page 11, Mumbai edition)[i] tries to untangle the web of contradictions around Soni Sori, a tribal schoolteacher and activist based in Chhattisgarh: is she a Maoist or a Maoist sympathiser, a police informer, or a social worker? It tracks Sori’s life from 2010 in an attempt to throw light on the issue, but in the process muddies the picture further.
The overwhelming sense that a reader draws from the story is perhaps the delegitimisation of Sori: she is portrayed as a double-crosser, a person who played to both sides in the Maoist-State conflict and fell in her own trap. In the story, the reporter speaks to various people associated with Sori who make claims that are not probed, no FIRs are cited, no chargesheets are examined and crucial information that could change the reader’s perceptions about claims made by people relating to Sori is withheld.
One of the planks on which the reporter bases the prospect of Sori being a double- crosser is the statement of local Congress leader Awdhesh Kumar Gautam. “She was playing to both sides. She could not have managed it for long,” Gautam tells the reporter. Yet, the latter fails to provide the reader with instances that may bring this forth. There aren’t even quotes from police officers substantiating how Sori was helping them, or whether she had actually promised them “a major haul of Maoists” as Gautam claims.
Crucially, the reporter withholds the information that Gautam is a powerful local contractor and a former police constable who has an old enmity with Sori. As reported by Tehelka, when Sori got an independent contract from the district collector to build her own school, Gautam allegedly began to resent her inroads into his core business[ii]. Provided with this bit of information, it is possible to look at Gautam’s claims in a new light: that of a local businessman trying to settle scores. Why did theSunday Express withhold this information from readers?
The Express also withholds the fact that Sori’s family and Gautam are political rivals. As the same newspaper had reported, Sori’s elder brother Sahdev once contested a panchayat election against Gautam’s wife, who won[iii].
As for her links with Maoists, the Sunday Express suggests that since Sori was not shot at/ injured when alleged Maoists attacked her house and shot at her father, she must be one. “Last June, Maoists attacked her father Mundra’s home and shot him in the leg. But Sori was spared”, readers are told. On what basis does the reporter conclude that Sori was “spared”? Was she in the house at the point when the attack took place, and did the Maoists not shoot her because she was one of them? Further, how is the attack on one’s family proof of the fact that one is a Maoist?
The other “proof” that the Sunday Express furnishes of Sori’s Maoist links is a quote from a local journalist and “family friend for years” who says “Madam was a bridge between Maoists and the local company contractors. She helped them levy taxes…” Readers are not told who this local journalist is, and whether Sori’s family also considers him a family friend. Given the extremely hostile working conditions of local journalists, where taking sides places them at immense risk and where they get paid for” not telling the truth”[iv], can their opinions be taken at face value?
The reporter appears to have based his story merely on hearsay, without probing deeper into any of the claims. For instance, when he states that the “Maoists recently issued a diktat forbidding her (Sori’s) relatives…from cultivating their land for three years…”, he does not state why the diktat was issued and how he is sure that it was a Maoist diktat. While the reporter does not use the word “allegedly” when talking about acts attributed to the Maoists, it comes into play when he mentions about police overtures/ atrocities. For instance “Kalluri (former Dantewada SSP) allegedly framed Sori…” and “These (Sori’s) letters detailed…how SP Ankit Garg allegedly stripped her…”
These are not the only blips undercutting the story though. The major assumption that seems to inform the reporter is the “us v/s them” syndrome. In this framework, a person has to side either with the Maoists or the State. Neutrality and an observance of ties with both sides not amounting to support of either is considered proof of culpability in heinous crimes.
The reporter ought to have pointed out how holding a neutral and independent position, like Sori was attempting to do, invites the wrath of both sides in the conflict; instead he flips her attempt at neutrality into one of being a double-crosser. Further, while introducing Sori, he does not mention that she was fighting to get minimum wages of tribal people raised from Rs. 60 to Rs. 120, and had kicked up a row about senior police officials pocketing huge sums from the illegal teak trade generated in the name of “jungle clearing” to thwart the Maoist movement, among other things[v]. She had, at the same time, saved the lives of CRPF jawans from a Maoist attack, as she says in this interview[vi]. These bits of information could entirely transform the readers’ perception of Sori up front.
Despite relying so heavily on people’s comments to construct his narrative, why did the reporter not speak to Sori’s father, or the deputy commander, CRPF, 51 Battalion, Mohan Prakash whom Sori claims to know very well?
This article is not arguing about Sori’s innocence; that probably she is; or her torture by the police, which also probably she has suffered. Neither is it asking how the media dare raise questions about Sori’s involvement with parties in the conflict. Such investigations are central to understanding how the Maoist conflict affects individuals in flesh and blood. Instead, it is trying to show how the investigation is biased, and how the media–when it tries to be critical–plays along the State/ corporate narrative on the issue.
In this context, it is pertinent to ask why the reporter did not raise the issue of systemic lapses in the full-page spread. Why are no questions raised about how hundreds of people such as Sori end up behind bars in conflict zones in the first place? Why does the reporter not talk about police lapses, administration excesses, and judicial delays? Why does he not ask why investigation has not been initiated against those accused of Sori’s custodial torture?
Instead, the reporter chooses to question why it took Sori 45 days to come out with the story of her being stripped naked and stones being inserted into her private parts. Perhaps, he ought to keep in mind that admitting that such things requires getting over the feelings of being shamed and violated. And when the victim happens to be a woman in a society as deeply patriarchal as ours, it doesn’t become any easier.
The Sunday Express also raises questions about how activists are using Sori. While that may very well be the case, the ground on which the reporter builds this argument is by pointing to the absence of anyone who agrees having carried the letters from Sori in jail to Delhi, where they “surfaced”. Has the reporter forgotten that Binayak Sen was in jail for over two years for this very reason: acting as a courier to an alleged Maoist? How then does he expect anybody to own up to carrying Sori’s letters out of jail?
“Soni’s Story”is an example of the media trying to cast a critical eye on the Maoist-state conflict, and examine how individuals are affected by it. Encouragingly, it tries to provide readers with a historical perspective, tracking Sori’s case over the last two years. This could have been the crucial context that’s missing in regular media coverage; it could have been the crucial frame that would make people’s lives in conflict zones intelligible. Instead, in the kind of questions it raises and in its ambivalence with facts, it only distorts the picture further. It is an example of how a story can be deeply problematic despite it appearing like an unbiased search for facts.