- Hunger strikers speak to the press at Rajghat, New Delhi
- 29 February 2012
Recent letters received from Soni Sori, currently in the Raipur Jail, reveal that her health condition is steadily deteriorating, and she is suffering from pain and bleeding. However, she has been denied proper medical care and treatment despite several requests to the jail authorities. After her brutal torture at the hands of Chhattisgarh police in October 2011, she received a complete medical examination only three weeks after the incident at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. Since then she has not received any follow-up treatment.
Women’s groups and other democratic rights groups in Delhi held a daylong hunger strike today at Rajghat from 6 am to 6 pm in solidarity with Soni Sori. Programmes were held also in Bengaluru, Bhopal, Jaipur, Mumbai, as well as in San Francisco and Boston. Their demands:
- To arrange for prompt and proper medical care for Soni Sori
- To initiate punitive action against SP Ankit Garg and all other police officials involved in her custodial torture.
Soni Sori is an adivasi school teacher from Dantewada, who had come to Delhi in end September 2011 to escape harassment by the Chhattisgarh police and to file a legal complaint. However, she was arrested on October 4th before her petition could be filed before the Supreme Court. She was remanded by the Delhi courts to the custody of Chhattisgarh Police with explicit directions to them to ensure her safety. Yet, while in police custody she was sexually tortured by the Chhattisgarh police on October 8th in Dantewada, under the direct orders of the then Superintendent of Police, Ankit Garg. She was verbally abused, stripped naked, electric current was applied to her body parts, and objects like stones, pebbles and batons were pushed into her private parts. Evidence of such brutal torture emerged during an independent medical exam conducted on her only on 26th October at the NRS Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, on the directions of the Supreme Court. During this medical examination three stones were found, lodged deep inside her private parts, and annular tears in her spine were also recorded.
The Kolkata medical team had given Soni medications to Soni for 15-30 days and advised that she be taken to the hospital in a month’s time for review and further treatment. This has not been done despite repeated complaints by her of pain, bleeding and request for treatment. The jail authorities claim that they do not have the discharge slips of the NRS hospital. Urgent applications to provide her with immediate medical care have been pending in the Supreme Court since January 19th 2012.
Out of frustration at not being given any medical treatment, Soni Sori was on hunger strike in the Raipur Jail from 8th February to 27th February. It has been learnt that on 27th February, the Session’s Court in Dantewada finally ordered the Superintendent of Raipur Jail to ensure that she gets a medical check-up in Raipur.
While it is reassuring that the Honourable Court has taken her complaint seriously, it is important to note that this Raipur Hospital gave Soni Sori a clean bill of health in October, when she was taken there soon after her torture when she was in no position to even walk. Not only did they not recover the stones in her body, but the Medical Superintendent actually went on record to call her a “malingerer” and said that she was feigning illness. In light of such callous treatment at the Raipur Hospital, the women’s groups urge that Soni Sori be transferred to an independent medical hospital in Delhi or Kolkata, which is not under the influence of the Chhattisgarh police, so that she can be properly examined and treated.
In her letter, Soni Sori also records her protest at the fact that she is continuously referred to by the jail authorities as the “Naxali” woman. While the police have accused her of helping the Naxalites, her trial is going on in Dantewada courts and none of these charges have been proved yet. Soni has strongly denied all these allegations claiming malicious victimization by the police, and has pointed out that in reality her father was shot at and injured by the Naxalites.
Soni Sori’s case is not an isolated one. In one of her letters from prison she has written “There are many other women prisoners suffering in this jail (in Dantewada). Around 60 women prisoners are here. They tell me that they were not able to fight back because there was no one to support them”.
Venting her anger against the torture and insults heaped upon her, she writes, “We, adivasis, are only fated to suffer atrocities and die; dying is necessary. We, adivasis, are a business for the government. The more the Chhattisgarh government will exploit us, oppress us, commit atrocities against us, torture us, rape our women, mercilessly strip us naked, the more the government will profit.” She represents the agony of many others caught in the crossfire.
In response to Soni Sori’s pleas that she wanted to talk to some women about the torture she has been subjected to in custody, a team of women had visited Raipur in January to meet her. However, the team was shunted around by the officials and denied permission on grounds of concern for security of Soni Sori and the Women’s Prison, and sections 692 and 695 of the Jail Manual. While Soni’s repeated calls for even a hearing goes unheard, in a shocking travesty of justice, SP Ankit Garg – Soni’s tormentor - was conferred the President’s Gallantry Award on January 26, 2012. By conferring this award, both the Central and State governments are condoning the sexual violence that is being perpetrated on tribal women in the name of anti-Naxal operations.
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), Saheli, and other concerned individuals and democratic rights organisations.
29th February 2012
For more information on the case see http://wssnet.wordpress.com
Annexed documents below: