The story of the Dantewada-based school teacher Soni Sori and her journalist nephew Lingaram Kodopi in many ways encapsulates the complex conflict that continues in Chattisgarh below the news-radar of the national media. The tribals increasingly get caught between the the security forces of the Indian State and the Maoists.
Lingaram Kodopi is a young boy from Chattisgarh, who was asked by the police to work as an informer against the the Maoists. On refusing he was locked up in a bathroom in the Dantewada police station for close to 40 days. When Himanshu Kumar filed a habeas corpus petition in the Chattisgarh High Court , Kodopi was released on bail. However, the police continued to harass him till the point when he came to Delhi and studied as a journalist for several months under the patronage of Himanshu Kumar. Then there was a terrible massacre and burning of three villages in Chattisgarh. Lingaram Kodopi who was now trained to be a journalist, went back to Chattisgarh and took footage from these three villages,the first hand account of the villagers and the way the huts were burnt down by the SPOs. The fact that Linga Kodopi has this footage appears o have become a source of worry for the state police. Their harassment of Linga and his aunt Soni Sori, who is a teacher in a government ashram in Chattisgarh, has gone up exponentially. A few weeks ago a constable in Dantewada asked Soni and Linga to pose as Maoists and and take a bribe from a Essar contractor B.K Lala. When they refused to do it, the constable forcibly made a call from Sori’s phone to Lala. Subsequently they caught Kodopi and Lala from their house, but reported that were caught red handed from the market exchanging 15 lakh rupees. Kodopi now is in jail but Soni Sori was forced to run away and take refuge elsewhere.
Talking from an undisclosed location, she called back this constable, a man called Mankad and asked him what was the truth of thew story. The phone call was recorded by Tehelka. Mankad admitted over the phone that Kodopi was arrested from his house, unlike what the police had earlier stated, and hinted that the arrest was a setup. He also told Sori to stay away and that their is no evidence against her. Sori, meanwhile, is on the run. She has three children in a hostel. One of them is a 5 year old. But the irony is that the maoists think they are informers. Somedays back they attacked Sori’s fathers house and shot her father in the leg. Her husband meanwhile has been in jail for close to a year now. This is the ground reality in Chattisgarh. The police of Chhattisgarh clearly doesnt want these stories to reach the people.
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