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.
Page No.1 of 4
ITEM NO.1 COURT NO.9 SECTION IIA
S U P R E M E C O U R T O F I N D I A
RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (Crl) No(s).7898/2013
(From the judgment and order dated 08/07/2013 in MCRC
No.2806/2013 of the HIGH COURT OF CHHATTISGARH AT BILASPUR)
LINGARAM KODOPI Petitioner(s)
STATE OF CHHATISGARH Respondent(s)
(With office report)
SLP(Crl) NO. 7913 of 2013
(With appln.(s) for permission to file synopsis and list of
dates and office report)
Date: 12/11/2013 These Petitions were called on for hearing
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE SURINDER SINGH NIJJAR
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE FAKKIR MOHAMED IBRAHIM KALIFULLA
SLP(CRL.)7898/13 Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Adv.
Mr. Ramesh K. Mishra, Adv.
SLP(CRL.)7913/13 Mr. Colin Gonsalves, Sr. Adv.
Ms. Amiy Shukla, Adv.
Ms. Jyoti Mendiratta, Adv.
For Respondent(s) Mr. V.A. Mohta, Sr. Adv.
Mr. A.P. Mayee, Adv.
Ms. Bansuri Swaraj, Adv.
Mr. Sanjeev Kr. Choudhary, Adv.
Mr. Nilkant Nayak, Adv.
UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following
O R D E R
Although in view of our order, dated 1st
November, 2013, the relevant record has been
produced, but no responsible officer familiar
with the record, who could assist the Court
Page No.2 of 4
in examining the same is present. Only some
police officers who are unable to assist the
Court have produced the record.
Mr. V.A. Mohta, learned Senior Counsel
appearing for the State of Chhatisgarh, has
submitted that no officer could attend as they
are all on election duty. He, therefore, seeks
an adjournment for two weeks, so that the
concerned officer can attend the proceedings.
It has been stated by the learned counsel for
the petitioners that the petitioner-Lingaram
Kodopi- in Special Leave Petition (Criminal)
No.7898 of 2013 has been in custody since 9th
September, 2011 and the petitioner-Soni Sori in
Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No.7913 of 2013
has been in custody since 4th October, 2011. Since
it is going to take some time before a
responsible officer can be present in Court in
assisting the examination of the record, we are
of the opinion that it would be unjust to
continue the incarceration of the petitioners
during the pendency of the applications for bail.
We are also mindful of the fact that Soni Sori,
petitioner in Special Leave Petition (Criminal)
No.7913 of 2013 has been acquitted in five
earlier cases. Similarly, petitioner Lingaram
Kodopi in Special Leave Petition (Criminal)
No.7898 of 2013 was also acquitted in the ealier
Page No.3 of 4
matter. It has also been stated that B.K. Lala,
co-accused has also been granted bail on 4th
February, 2012. In these circumstances, we are
of the opinion that it would be appropriate to
direct that the petitioners be released on
interim bail during the pendency of the bail
applications. However, keeping in view the
submissions made by Mr. V.A. Mohta, learned
Senior Counsel appearing for the State of
Chhatisgarh, it would be in the interests of
justice to direct that the petitioners shall not
enter the State of Chhatisgarh during the period
in which they are granted interim bail. It is
At this stage, it has been brought to our
notice by Mr. Colin Gonsalves, learned Senior
Counsel appearing for the petitioner in Special
Leave petition (Criminal) No.7913 of 2013 and Mr.
Prashant Bhushan, learned counsel appearing for
the petitioner in Special Leave petition
(Criminal) No.7898 of 2013 that the petitioners
have not met their families for a long time and
it would be only humane if they are permitted to
meet their families before they travel to Delhi.
In view of the above, we direct the concerned
Senior Superintendent of Police to depute some
responsible police officers to escort the
petitioners to their respective villages so that
Page No.4 of 4
they can meet their families for a period of 24
hours. On the following day, the petitioners
shall be escorted to Delhi. They shall be
permitted to reside in any locality of their
choice in Delhi. Once the petitioners reach
Delhi, they are directed to report to the Incharge
of the local Police Station once a week.
They shall report to the In-charge of the local
Police Station every Sunday at 11.00 a.m.
Let the matters stand over till 3rd December,
We reiterate that it is necessary that some
responsible officer who is familiar with the
entire investigation should be present in Court
on the next date of hearing to explain the entire
record to the Court and also to clarify any
doubts which may be raised by the learned counsel
for the petitioners.
This order shall be faxed and communicated to
the Welfare Officer, Central Jail, Jagdalpur,
Chhatisgarh and the concerned authority today
itself for necessary action.
(INDU BALA KAPUR)
From The Hindu – November 13th 2013
The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted interim bail to Soni Sori, a tribal schoolteacher of Dantewada, and her relative, journalist Lingaram Kodopi, who are facing trial on the charge of having helped to arrange ‘protection money’ payoffs from steel giant Essar to Maoists in Chhattisgarh.
Ms. Sori and Mr. Kodopi were granted bail since the Chhattisgarh government did not produce an officer for assisting the court in examining the case records it had submitted earlier.
V.A. Mohta, senior counsel for Chhattisgarh, said none could be assigned as all officers were deployed on election duties.
The next hearing is scheduled for December 3, when the State is expected to file its reply.
Ms. Sori, 38, and Mr. Kodopi have been in jail for the past two years, facing multiple criminal charges, ranging from manslaughter to criminal conspiracy. Ms. Sori is alleged to have been tortured in police custody and is still suffering from multiple injuries. Mr. Kodopi, who played a decisive role in exposing the massacre of villagers at Tadmetla in Bijapur district, claims his life and career have been ruined.
Amiy Shukla, one of Ms. Sori’s lawyer, said Ms. Sori was acquitted in six of the eight cases filed against her. Her husband, Anil Futane, co-accused in another case, died during this time. The children separated from the family.
D.V.C.S. Verma, general manager at an Essar steel plant, and B.K. Lala, an Essar contractor, were also arrested. However, they were granted bail in the first few months of their arrest.
Complaint (Parivaad) C.A. No. 624/09 [Number not clear]
Witness no. …1… for (panjiyan poorva saakshya) Deposition taken on the …..27-6-07……. day of ……. Witness’s apparent age …..22…… States on affirmation ……………. My name is ……….Mrs. Leda…….wife of Ramesh…… Occupation ….housewife… address …..Village Tarangava, Police Station Shankargarh, Distt. Sarguja Chhattisgarh……..
- This happened around one year ago. I am illiterate. I do not know the date. Israel used to come to our village. His mother also belonged to our Oraon tribe. His mother was from our village. Israel loved me and I became pregnant from him. The foetus got aborted after I was beaten in the village. He always promised to marry me in one or two months. Thus I became pregnant again. He got that pregnancy terminated also. When he did not meet for one month, I enquired about him and came to know that he had married a girl from his own tribe.
- When I called Israel and talked to him, Israel assured me that in his tribe, one can have a junior wife and a senior wife (chotki-badki) and that he will me after five months. I kept quiet for five months. After five months, I called Israel again. He told me that he would not keep me and I could go wherever I wanted. I returned to my father and told him that Israel would not marry me now. Then I went with my father to Shankargarh police station where Nasar Siddiqui was the thana-in-charge. Israel had already met him because of which Nasar Siddiqui did not register my report and threw us out of the thana. We returned to our home. A boy named Ramesh used to come to our village. He asked my father what Israel had done to his daughter (me). My father told him to inquire from his daughter (me) instead. Later my father arranged my meeting with Ramesh. Ramesh asked me about everything. So I had told Ramesh whatever Israel had said and done. Ramesh told me that he was in touch with the Naxalites and after talking to them, he would get me married to Israel. After this, Ramesh started coming to my home quite often. In the meantime, one day Ramesh asked my father why we were so keen on my marriage with Israel while Ramesh himself was also a tribal and my father should get his daughter (me) married to Ramesh. When Ramesh talked to me about marriage, I agreed to marry him. Then during sarnapuja, Vikram baba of the village got me and Ramesh married.
- After the wedding, Ramesh came with us to my parents’ home and stayed there for two-three days. Then he said that he was going in search of some employment and that when he found some work, he would come and take me with him. One month later, Brijesh Tiwari from Shankargarh police station came to our house and asked him to accompany him as sahib had called me to the police station. In the Shankargarh police station, the thana-in-charge Nasar Siddiqui said about me that I was a Naxalite and if I were not sent to jail, then I would surely file a case against Israel.
- Thereafter I was sent to jail. At that time, I was pregnant. My child is very weak. After eight months, when my delivery was due, I was granted bail. I delivered my child at home. After my delivery, when I appeared in the court for hearing, I was again sent to jail. After six months, the judgment was delivered in my case and the court acquitted me. When I released from the jail, my lawyer advised me that I should inform the Shankargarh police station about my release. After three days, I went to the Shankargarh police station with my father. When I went there, I met thana-in-charge Sapan Choudhary who asked me if I knew Ramesh. I said yes, he was my husband. He asked me what sort of work he was engaged in. I told him that he said that he worked as a labourer and did some farming also.
- Shankargarh thana-in-charge Sapan Choudhary told me that Ramesh was a Naxalite. Before this, I did not know that Ramesh was a Naxalite. Sapan Choudhary advised me that I should make Ramesh surrender before the police and that if he surrendered before them, the police would help him and the government will also give him some money. Otherwise, one day he would come and kill Ramesh in front of me in my house.
- After one month, Ramesh came to our home. I asked him if he was a Naxalite. He said yes. I told him that the thana-in-charge had suggested that I should ask him to surrender. If he was made to surrender then the government will give us money for our living expenses. Ramesh said that he would be coming next month on leave and then he would tell me about his decision. Next month, Ramesh came to Sivildag and informed me through the secretary that he had arrived. After receiving the information from the secretary that Ramesh had come to Sivildag, my father and I went to Shankargarh police station to inform them that Ramesh had come to surrender. At that time, Sapan Chaudhary, thana-in-charge, was not present at the police station; the other policemen were there. We told the police men that Ramesh had come to surrender. The policemen told us to sit, the senior officer will talk to the SP and tell us. Then the policemen told us to go back home and return to the police station at the crack of dawn the next day. Next morning, I went to the Shankargarh police station where I met Mr. Kalluri who told me that I was lying that Ramesh would surrender. I told him with folded hands that I was telling him the truth and that Ramesh had come to Sivildag for surrendering.
- Then I was taken in a police van from police station Shankargarh to police station Kusumi. More policemen joined us at police station Kusumi and from there all of us when to Kasamaar. At Kasamaar, all of us alighted from the van and walked on foot. From Kasamaar, we reached Sivildag on foot. On reaching Sivildag, Kalluri sahib asked that Ramesh be brought. Then Ramesh was brought. Then the policemen beat Ramesh with lathis (sticks). After beating Ramesh, Kalluri sahib interrogated Ramesh and after interrogation, he told Ramesh and me that we should go to the house of the secretary and discuss with each other. We were talking in the room. At that time Ramesh told me that “the bag hung on the peg contained (saade lakh) rupees. These police men are going to take me to jail, you should use that money for my bail etc.” (The witness starts crying at this point.) Brijesh Tiwari came in the meantime and shot at my husband Ramesh three times. When Brijesh Tiwari shot at my husband, I started crying loudly. Then the policemen dragged me out of the room. (The witness is crying.) The policemen told Kalluri sahib that they should kill me also. Then Kalluri said yes, kill her. Then the villagers present there opposed it. Then they took me to police station Shankargarh in a police van. I was imprisoned in police station Shankargarh. At night, Kalluri sahib came to police station Shankargarh and warned me not to speak about this to anyone. “We took pity on you because of your child and let you go. If you complain anywhere, we will shoot you.” They let me out at noon on the next day. It was Monday. It was the day of the weekly market in Shankargarh. When they let me out of of the police station then I wondered where to go. Thinking this, I went to Shankargarh market. There I met Shankar. He told me that the policemen had shot Ramesh dead. I already knew about. I went crying to my home in village Sarangava. After reaching home, I told my parents about the incident. My father asked me to stay at home for ten days and not go anywhere, because in our community (after a death in the family) no one goes out anywhere for ten days.
- After ten days, I came to Ambikapur and told my lawyer about the entire incident relating to my husband’s murder. Then my lawyer prepared a petition on my behalf and sent it to the Chief Minister. After filing the complaint, I started living in Ambikapur. I used to work in Suresh’s house as a house maid. When I returned to my village around the time of panchpujai dussehra, my parents informed me that the police was looking for me. After consulting my parents, I went to Chainpur to stay with my sister. The next day, policemen from the Shankargarh police station arrested my father and brought him to the police station. My aya (mother) sent a message to my sister’s house that the Shankargarh police had taken my father into custody. Then I returned home. I reached my home in the evening. Soon after, the policemen from Shankargarh police station came in three vans and took me to the Shankargarh police station. When I reached Shankargarh police station, I saw Kalluri sahib who, upon seeing me, asked if I knew who he was. Then I said, “You are Kalluri Sahib. I made my husband surrender before you and you got him shot.” Then Kalluri slapped me twice. I was carrying my daughter. I fell on the ground with my daughter. Kalluri asked me to take off my clothes. When I refused, two policemen twisted my father’s arms and made him stand up, and started beating him. They beat my father mercilessly. Then Brijesh Tiwari unfastened my saree and took off all the other garments. When I was resisting the taking off of my clothes, they started hitting my father forcefully. I took off my clothes. They completely stripped me. They stripped me. My child was wailing uncontrollably on the ground. Then Kalluri said, “Take her inside the room, I will interrogate her.” In my nude condition, they took me inside the room in the police station. Then Kalluri raped me inside the police station. He brought me outside after an hour and got green chillies shoved into my vagina. Before leaving the police station, Kalluri told the policemen to rape me everyday. In the Shankargarh police station, the policemen used to rape me everyday. Dhiraj Jaiswal came with the policemen three times to rape me and once Brijesh Tiwari raped me.
- For ten days, my father, my mother and I were detained in the police station. My mother was also taken to the Shankargarh police station the same day when I was also taken there. After ten days, they took us to Ramanujganj police station. In the Ramanujganj police station, they made us sign some papers on the threat of shooting us. After releasing us, they put four policemen on duty to keep a watch on me. Even when I went for relieving myself or taking a bath, the policemen would accompany me. On the occasion of Chherta, the said policemen went away to celebrate Chherta. They started drinking liquor. Then I ran away on foot and reached Rajpur. From there, I caught a bus to Ambikapur. As I reached Ambikapur at night, I stayed in a dharmshala (resthouse). In the morning, I went to my lawyer’s place. When I reached my lawyer’s place in the morning, his wife informed me that he had gone to Bilaspur. The lawyer’s wife told me that he would return after two days, so I waited for two days for him. I had no money, so I went to Suresh’s house where I used to work earlier and took Rs 200 from him to go to Bilaspur. When I was in jail, a lady had visited me who had given me her contact number to me. I searched for her in Bilaspur. I looked for her in the Bilaspur high court and I asked about her from a male lawyer. When he enquired, I told him about the whole incident. That lawyer said he will take up my case, so I got him to prepare my case and file it in the Honourable High Court.
- One week ago, some people from Delhi had come to ask me some questions, so I told them about the incident. I told the people from Delhi that I had not visited my village since I had filed the case. I want to go to my village. Please arrange for me to go to my village. They assured me that they will make arrangements for sending me to my village in one week. I have presented papers in this case.
25th January 2013
We, the undersigned, are appalled at the conferment of the President’s Police Medal for Meritorious Service to SRP Kalluri, IGP of Chhattisgarh. Mr Kalluri raped a tribal woman, Ledha Bai, when he was the SP of Sarguja District, ordered her gang-rape by his juniors, and then terrorized her and her lawyer when she decided to file a complaint against him. Coming on the heels of the award of the President’s Gallantry medal to Ankit Garg, who had sexually assaulted another tribal woman in his custody, Soni Sori, it appears that sexual violence against women by the police is well tolerated, and even decorated, by the government. Is it any wonder then, that we are witnessing a spiraling increase in crimes against women?
Ledha Bai is a tribal woman who was married to Ramesh Nagesia, a member of the CPI(Maoists). Under advice from the police, she convinced her husband to surrender himself to the police. But, the police team, lead by the then-SP of Sarguja, Mr. SRP Kalluri, went to the pre-assigned meeting place and shot the unarmed Ramesh Nagesia dead, in front of his wife Ledha. Ledha was allowed to live, but with the caveat that she would not tell anyone about this episode. However, a few days later, Ledha, her 2 year old child and her parents were rounded up and taken to the police station. There, Ledha was stripped and raped by Mr. Kalluri, and green chillies were inserted into her vagina in front of her parents and daughter. Under orders from Mr Kalluri, SPO Dhiraj Jaiswal and others gangraped her in police custody for about 10 days. All this has been documented by several fact-finding teams and was also corroborated by Ledha’s statement in front of a magistrate.
When Ledha tried to lodge a complaint against Mr. Kalluri, she and her father were intimidated to the extent that they had to withdraw the complaint, and instead, false charges were filed against the lawyer who had helped her file the complaint.
Mr. Kalluri is well-known for the reign of terror he let loose in Sarguja district as its SP, under the pretext of fighting Maoists. Extra-judicial killings were frequent, such as the one of Narayan Khairwar, and anyone who raised a voice against this was victimized. Even a Rozgar Yatra led by the eminent economist Jean Dreze was subjected to a lathi-charge, on account of being constituted of suspected Maoists.
Later on, Mr. Kalluri was transferred to Dantewada as Senior Superintendent of Police. His authoritarian rule continued there, and activists and ordinary tribals were subjected to endless harassment under his orders. Himanshu Kumar, a well-known Gandhian activist opposing Salwa Judum, had his ashram demolished and was forced to flee from Dantewada. Mr. Kalluri held a press conference announcing the well-respected international organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders, were helping Maoists. In another press conference, he announced that Lingaram Kodopi, a 20 year old journalism student in NOIDA who had addressed public meetings in Delhi talking about the reign of terror in Dantewada under Salwa Judum and Operation Green Hunt, was in fact a spokesperson for the CPI(Maoist) and had masterminded a Naxalite attack in Dantewada while sitting in Delhi. Linga’s aunt, Soni Sodi, another outspoken tribal woman, was harassed by having multiple false cases lodged against her, and her husband arrested in another false case. Any tribal activist, other than those working for the ruling party, were arrested and thrown into jail. Consequently, CPI was forced to write a letter of protest to the Prime Minister, complaining of the witch hunt of their party workers under Mr. Kalluri’s reign, more than a dozen of whom were arrested and many of whom still continue to languish in jail. Kartam Joga, an elected Janpad member of the CPI, who had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court against Salwa Judum, was similarly picked up on spurious charges and has just been released after 29 months in prison.
In March 2011, SPOs torched three villages in Dantewada district. As Swami Agnivesh was attempting to deliver relief to these villages, police sealed off these areas and attacked the convoy along with Swami ji and accompanying journalists. The uproar created in the wake of this incident forced the Chhattisgarh government to transfer Mr. Kalluri out of this area.
In view of these crimes committed by Mr. Kalluri, we are unable to understand what constitutes meritorious service in the eyes of our government. We demand that the medal be immediately withdrawn.
Signed by –
Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist
Sudha Bharadwaj, Advocate
Shalini Gera, Activist
Nandini Sundar, Academic
Himanshu Kumar, Gandhian activist
Bela Bhatia, Academic
Vrinda Grover, Advocate
Ram Punyani, Scientist and Activist
Mansi Sharma, Activist
Naish Hasan, Activist, Lucknow
Sheba George, Activist, Gujarat
Mahtab Alam, Activist and Journalist
Manisha Sethi, Activist-Academician
Sanghamitra Misra, Activist-Academician
Syed Zafar Mehdi, Journalist
Dr. John Dayal, All India Christian Council & Member, National Integration Council, GoI
Ahmed Sohaib, Activist-Academician
Aslam Khan, Activist, Delhi
Kavita Srivastava, PUCL
Navaid Hamid, member, Member, National Integration Council, GoI
S R Darapuri, former DGP Police
Annie Raja, National Federation of Indian Women
Zakia Soman, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
Zulaikha Zabeen, Journalist, Raipur
Sucheta De, AISA
Asad Zaidi, Three Essays Collective
Vinay Bhatt, Activist
Shaheen Nazar, Senior Journalist
Harsh Dobhal, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN)
Kavita Krishnan, All India Progressive Women Association (AIPWA)
Reena Philipm, Activist, Kerala
Reny Ayline, NCHRO
Purva Bhardwaj, Activist and Researcher
Prof. Apoorvanand, Delhi University
Kumar Sundaram, CNDP
Lateef Mohd Khan, CLMC, Hyderabad
Jay N Jayram, Researcher and Journalist
Seema Mustafa, Senior Journalist
Dilip Simeon, Academician
Aijaz Zaka Syed, Writer and Columnist
Prakash K Ray, Researcher
Irshadul Haque, Editor, Naukarshahi.in
Iftikhar Gilani, Senior Journalist
Seela Mahapatra & Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
Jawed Naqvi, Senior Journalist
Vineet Tiwari, Gen Sec, M P PWA
Meera Ahmed, University of Delhi
1. Fact finding report on Ledha’s custodial rape http://www.hrsolidarity.net/mainfile.php/2006vol16no02/2491/
2. Affidavit filed by Swami Agnivesh in Supreme Court http://www.swamiagnivesh.com/SwamiAgniveshaffidavit.doc.pdf
3. Account of attack on Jean Dreze and Rozgar Yatra http://www.frontlineonnet.com/fl2213/stories/20050701006013300.htm
4. Letter from CPI to the PM http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2010-07-17/news/28409499_1_cpi-general-secretary-maoists-s-r-p-kalluri
I have never deceived my homeland. I never overlooked the questions raised by the Jharkand people. The flowing water of the Koyal, Karo and Chata rivers is a witness to this. I learnt to write with my fingers in the mud and sand of this land. On the banks of the river Karo, while grazing my sheep, I learnt to bathe and swim. The shade of grass and trees covered with dew filled in the sky, gave me love; how can I sell this? How couldn’t I make the pain and suffering of the society which taught me how to live, a part of myself?
To protect the interests and rights of these people is our (everyone’s) responsibility. And I think this is the only way for the persons who try to fulfill this responsibility. Only dangers and troubles are written in their fate, this is the reality of life. I tried to tell the government that their system is not fulfilling its responsibility towards its citizens.
When the villagers of Anagda took out a rally demanding job cards under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Gaurantee Act (MGNREGA), which was started to prevent the migration of people from rural areas by providing them work for 100 days, a case was lodged against them. Many of my friends were present in that rally. The MGNREGA scam is clear before everyone. The truth is that the poor rural people did not get anything except that they were declared as culprits.
Then I was put in jail. Violating the laws of the land, the government was forcefully acquiring 227 acres of agricultural land from the villagers of Nagdi. I tried to tell the government that they are doing a wrong thing. On the basis of law and human values, I asked them to leave the agricultural land alone. You are welcome to build the Law College and IIM on an infertile and unproductive land, I said. My crime was this, because of which four of my people were already behind bars, many lost their hands and today I am behind bars. Today, looters of the state have become well wishers in the sight of the government and its institutions. On one hand, the exploiters of state’s resources and human rights violators are being given protection by the government, and on the other hand the sons and daughters who are the well wishers of the land are being declared as criminals. Every well wisher of the country is being treated in the same manner as Birsa Munda, who was termed as a criminal when he fought for the people.
What is right and what is wrong I am not able to understand. But I Know this much that I have turned into a stone today. The whole world is sleeping. It is 1’o clock in the night and the captives are sleeping in the women’s ward of Birsa Munda Central Jail. I am sitting alone. I have never kept myself away from the pain and suffering of others, whether it be day or night. Even the darkness of the night could not stop me from wiping the tears of others, but today my legs have been tied. Every hand which used to wipe another’s tear, has been chained. My sister-in-law’s dead body is lying in my house, my family is engulfed with fear and I am lying in the jail both helpless and speechless. I cannot shed tears even though I have tearful eyes. Today, on 6 November 2012, I have to go to the court. I have a feeling that a new case will be lodged against me, for which I will be taken into custody or be remanded or a production warrant will be issued against me. I am losing trust on trust itself.
I thank all my friends, near and dear, who have extended their support to me in this time of sorrow. All my jail inmates are persuading me to fight this battle from outside the walls of this jail. I will try my best to be as steadfast as the mountains, rivers and forests which stand firm in the villages and towns, elevating the voice of this struggle. We will not give even an inch of our ancestral land. We hope that this moment will not be the end of our lives because until the streams of Koyal, Karo and Chata continue to flow, we will fight this battle.
(This letter was written to Faisal Anurag and was also first published in the Hindi Newspaper ‘Prabhat Khabar’)
New Delhi, Nov 1 (IANS) Condemning the arrest of woman tribal-activist and journalist Dayamani Barla in Jharkhand, rights activists here Thursday demanded that the “false cases” against her be dropped and that she be immediately released.
Members of Indian and international organisations said the reason for this incarceration is to intimidate Barla, who is one of the leaders of the peaceful struggle of people against the acquisition of fertile land at Nagri, a village situated near Ranchi for setting up a law university and an Indian Institute of Management (IIM).
The members of Association for India’s Development, Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, International Alliance for the Defence of Human Rights in India and others demanded her release.
“As per some estimates, at least 500 tribal families will be displaced and their livelihoods will be destroyed if the land is acquired for the said institutions. In January, the state bulldozed farms just when the winter crops, mostly potatoes and pulses, were to be harvested,” the groups said in a joint statement.
“We find the Jharkhand government indifferent and (their) unjust response to this peaceful struggle appalling. We support these institutions in the state but not at the cost of the main source of villagers’ livelihood,” they said.
Barla was granted bail by a local court in Ranchi Oct 18, in a case related to a protest held in 2006 demanding job cards for rural labourers under the Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
However, on the day that she was supposed to be released (Oct 19), jail authorities announced that she had been re-arrested on a second warrant, for “obstructing government work”.
“She was denied bail on Oct 29 and remains imprisoned. We demand her immediate release,” the activists said.
Today afternoon, activists from women’s groups and several peoples’ organisations stormed the National Commission for Women (NCW), protesting against the continued inaction for an year in the Soni Sori case. It has been one year since the arrest of 36-year old Soni Sori, an adivasi school warden from Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, and her custodial torture at the behest of the then SP of Dantewada, Ankit Garg. Soni Sori’s right to life and dignity have been violated by various jail and police authorities several times over – from foisting false cases against her, sexually torturing and humiliating her in the police station, denying her medical attention, and most recently, humiliating her by publicly stripping her in prison in the name of conducting physical search. It is also one year since women’s groups first met the NCW to seek their intervention.
Since the first meeting last year, these organizations have approached the NCW on several occasions to take steps against Soni Sori’s custodial torture and continuing ill treatment. Every single instance of illegality by police and jail authorities was brought to the attention of the NCW. Soni Sori herself wrote to the NCW seeking their help. But all this has fallen on deaf ears.
On 27 September 2012, when the NCW was once again approached regarding this case by representatives of some women’s organisations, Hemlata Kheria, the Member-in-Charge of Chhattisgarh was not even aware of SoniSori’s case. It took two hours for her file to be dug out, and it was then discovered that a reply of the Chhattisgarh police had been lying in the NCW office since 17 February. The NCW has neither taken cognizance of this reply, nor forwarded it to the complainants.
Today, to the shock and consternation of the protesting organizations, they were informed by another member secretary Charu Walikhanna that the Soni Sori case had been closed on 4 Oct 2012, that too once more without informing the complainants! Clearly, the NCW had satisfied itself by reading a “report” by the accused in the case, the Chhattisgarh Police. The closure report says, “at our end, nothing seems more to be done”. Various members of the NCW came up with frivolous excuses of not having the “power” to take up a case which is pending before a court. The activists were then forced to read out the provisions of the NCW Act, which give the commission the power to intervene or/and assist in any pending case.
After prolonged discussion, the NCW finally relented and has reopened the case. Also, the NCW has given in writing that within a week it will “consider intervention in the Supreme Court case” and carry out a fact-finding.
NCW has frequently denied reports of sexual violence by security forces in several parts of the country, instead of seeking to investigate and end impunity granted in such crimes. It’s apathy has been criminal – it refused to get involved in the Shopian case where Nilofer and Aasiya Jan were sexually assaulted and killed; it remained a mute spectator when the Chhattisgarh police whisked away Sodi Shambho, the crucial witness to Gompad massacre, from right under its nose in New Delhi to some place where she still remains untraced three years later; it is still to take any action on a 15-month old petition asking the NCW to investigate the human rights violation of Irom Sharmila, who is being illegally detained by the Government.
The protesting groups today also pointed out that Members and Chairpersons of the NCW are chosen not by virtue of their involvement in and championship of women’s rights and struggles, but by their participation in and patronage by the ruling political parties.