Activist Soni Sori granted permanent bail by Supreme Court; allowed to visit Chhattisgarh

Tribal school teacher Soni Sori who was accused of helping maoists was granted permanent bail by Supreme Court. She can visit Chhattisgarh again, after removal of an earlier restraint order put against her. 

Soni, who hails from Dantewada was arrested by the Delhi Police crime branch on behalf of the Chhattisgarh police in 2011. 

During her imprisonment, she has claimed, that she tortured and sexually assaulted by Chhattisgarh police. By April 2013, the apex court acquitted her in six of the eight cases against her due to lack of any substantial evidence. 

The first arrest warrants against Sori, her husband and nephew were issued in 2010 for allegedly attacking Congress leader Avdesh Gautam who escaped unhurt. 

“Giving electric shocks, stripping me naked, shoving stones inside me – is this going to solve the Naxal problem,” she had once asked in a letter to the Supreme Court.

In her many letters, Sori complained of bad health and being denied sustenance.

Human rights activists insisted that Sori was jailed for questioning violations of law by the police and security forces in the state.


The case so far: 
On 9 September 2011, Chhattisgarh Police stated that they had prevented an exchange of extortion money from the Essar Group to the Maoist group CPI (Maoist). 

Earlier, WikiLeaks had also revealed that the Essar Group pays a significant amount of protection money to Maoists to safeguard its operations in the state.

Despite Soni Sori’s statement to a court that she feared for her safety, she was transferred to the custody of Chhattisgarh state police in Dantewada. She was then interrogated on October 8 and 9, during which time she alleges that she was stripped naked and tortured with electric shocks at the orders of then-district police superintendent Ankit Garg.

On January 8, 2013, Supreme Court of India allowed Sori’s request for shifting from the Raipur Central Jail to the Jagdalpur Jail. Court recorded that she had been shifted to the Raipur

Central Jail on her own request. Sori had complained of sexual harassment from jail officials at the Raipur prison. 

The Chhattisgarh government submitted to the Supreme Court of India that the entire allegation was being orchestrated by certain vested interests to malign the Chhattisgarh Police.

In January 2012, Human Rights Watch called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to launch an independent probe, criticising the failure of the Chhattisgarh government to begin an investigation and the lack of inquiries by the national government. 

Amnesty International stated that it considered Sori a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for her critique of human rights violations by both Maoist rebels and Indian state forces. On International Women’s Day 2012 (March 8), it launched a campaign calling for her unconditional release and an investigation into her torture allegations

A group of 250 activists and intellectuals wrote to Prime Minister Singh on April 30 expressing concern over Sori’s “rapidly deteriorating” condition in prison and demanding that she receive immediate medical attention. 

After being refused by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences the previous day, Sori was later admitted to the hospital on May 10 for treatment. She was found to be suffering from severe blisters in her genital area, and a government inquiry was instituted to learn why the hospital had initially refused her.


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