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Soni Sori: The story of a victim of state oppression

Date : 16/07/2011

This is a story of a woman and her family from the so called “internal security threat” of India. Soni Sori, 36, is a tribal woman from village Sameli of Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state, who used to teach in a residential school for tribal children run by the Chhattisgarh government at Jabeli in Dantewada district. Her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, 26, was forcibly picked up from his house in Sameli village, district Dantewada, locked up, and physically and mentally tortured in order to pressure him to become a Special Police Officer (SPO).

Sori challenged this action of police in high court and got her nephew released. Police kept on harassing her nephew by attacking his house multiple times even after he was released by the court. His elder brother, Masaram Kodopi, was picked up by the police and detained for a day and accused of securing the release of a “Naxalite.” The police continued to threaten Lingaram with dire consequences and harass his family members. Finally, with the help of activist, Mr. Himanshu Kumar, Sori send her nephew to Delhi where he studied journalism.

While in Delhi, he completed a course in journalism and this apparently annoyed the Chhattisgarh police even further and made them apprehensive that he will use his recent training to report on police atrocities in Chhattisgarh. The police were clearly very apprehensive about the documentary evidence that Lingaram had obtained of the carnage in the three villages of Tarmetla, Morpalli and Timmapuram, where hundreds of houses were burnt, people were killed and women raped by the police and other armed security forces, and into which the Court ordered a CBI enquiry. The Chhattisgarh police arrested him to prevent him from handing over the evidence that he had collected including video testimonies and photographs of the victims including the rape victims to the CBI.

To take revenge from Sori for her courageous move to take on police and getting her nephew released from the jaws of the police, she was falsely implicated in many fabricated criminal cases by the police. In the second week of September 2011, she fled from Dantewada, Chhattisgarh fearing for her life because the Chhattisgarh police have tried to eliminate her on September 11, 2011. She came to Delhi and gave instructions and on the basis of those instructions a petition was filed. She feared that the Chhattisgarh police who are expected to follow her to Delhi would extra-judicially execute her as she had in her possession evidence to show that false cases have been registered against her nephew, Lingaram Kodopi, and herself. These false cases have been registered because the two of them refused demands made by the Chhattisgarh police that they act as intermediaries between certain corporations and the Naxalites. The Chhattisgarh police also wanted her to give evidence against her fellow villagers and to make false statements to the effect that they were Maoists.

Sori tried to take legal recourse and came to Delhi. Chhattisgarh police chased her to Delhi and took her back to Chhattisgarh. The police tortured her in police station by giving her electric shocks, molestation, and by putting stones into her private parts. Last year Tehelka, a new magazine reported, quoting sources 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.

HRLN lawyers have been fighting her case and were in continuous touch with her. A writ petition was immediately filed in Supreme Court in which she wants the directions to the state of Chhattisgarh to produce all the FIRs and charge sheets with respect to her and Lingaram Kodopi. The petition also prays for an order or direction directing the setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) comprising of officers from outside the state of Chhattisgarh to investigate and prosecute in respect of the FIRs and chargesheets involving both of them. “An order or direction staying the arrest of the Sori, who undertakes to cooperate with the investigation and directing transfer of all the cases pending against her and Lingaram before any court in the State of Chhattisgarh to any competent court in Delhi,” the petition reads.

Soni’s case is a typical case of tribal being caught in the cross fire between the Maoists and the security forces. Her father was shot at by the Maoists and his entire house looted on June 14, 2011.

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