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IADHRI Demands Freedom for Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi

Contact: iadhri.org@gmail.com

25 October, 2013

On Monday, 28th October, the Supreme Court of India will take up the bail petitions of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi, adivasi prisoners in Chhattisgarh who have been incarcerated for more than two years. The arrest and the subsequent torture of Soni Sori in October 2011 drew international condemnation [1]. Much less widely known has been the arrest the previous month of Sori’s nephew, Kodopi, who was also subjected to torture by the Chhattisgarh police [2].

False charges were subsequently foisted on both of them, with Sori being implicated in eight cases and Kodopi in two cases. Sori was acquitted in all but two of the cases and Kodopi in one of the two cases. Sori was also granted bail in one of the two remaining cases [3]. The one remaining case against both of them relates to allegations of acting as a courier between Essar, a business conglomerate with steel manufacturing operations in Chhattisgarh, and the outlawed Maoist Communist Party of India. Though two other accused in this case, the general manager of the Essar operations in the state and a contract worker, were granted bail within months of their arrest, the trial court and the state High Court have denied Sori and Kodopi bail earlier this year [4] and it is their appeal against this decision that the Supreme Court is expected to hear on Monday.

Sori was arrested on October 4, 2011 in New Delhi, where she had gone seeking legal help, and taken by the Chhattisgarh police to Dantewada. As detailed in her letters from prison, she was tortured in police custody and sexually abused. Her allegations were substantiated by independent medical examinations conducted in Kolkata under the directions of the Supreme Court. While imprisoned in Raipur, she continued to face abuse and denial of medical care from the police and the jail authorities until the Supreme Court ordered that she be taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment [5,6].

Sori’s husband Anil Futane died last August 2nd, soon after being released from jail [7]. He was arrested in July 2010 and accused of involvement in the attack on the home of Congress politician and contractor Avdesh Gautam. Sori, Kodopi and 14 others were also falsely implicated in this case but all of them were acquitted. According to other jail inmates, Futane was beaten so severely in the prison that he was paralyzed. They attribute his death to health complications resulting from torture and the failure of prison authorities to give him medical care.

Kodopi himself has undergone serious abuse and torture since his detention without charges in 2009, when he was locked up inside a toilet in a police station for 40 days. He was freed the following year only after the intervention of the Chhattisgarh High Court responding to a habeas corpus petition. Facing continued threats from the police and the Maoists, he went to Delhi where he studied journalism for a year. During his time in Delhi, he spoke out against the atrocities committed by the police on the Adivasi communities. Soon after he graduated from his journalism program in April 2011, he returned to Chhattisgarh where police and paramilitary forces had burnt down the villages of Morpalli, Timmapuram and Tadmetla, killed three people and raped three women. He documented the scenes of these crimes and recorded video testimonies of the survivors [8].

The cases of Sori and Kodopi are not isolated. Especially (but not exclusively) in Chhattisgarh, thousands of other prisoners are known to be held for years on spurious charges. The draconian provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act enable the state police and other security officials to arrest and imprison anyone on dubious grounds, often to silence critical voices. Many of these prisoners are also known to undergo torture, sexual and other abuse at the hands of police and prison officials.

During her more than two years of incarceration, the Supreme Court of India has been the only institution from which Soni Sori has been able to get any judicial relief. We are hopeful, therefore, that this time too, the Supreme Court would decide in her and Kodopi’s favor and grant them bail. However, as we have pointed out many times and as corroborated by human rights organizations and groups such including PUCL, PUDR, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi deserve to be free. Now bereft of their father, Sori’s three young children need to be urgently reunited with their mother. Therefore, we reiterate our demand that the Chhattisgarh government

  • Drop all charges against Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi
  • Compensate them for all the suffering and cruelty inflicted on them,
  • Conduct an impartial and expeditious investigation of all the cases of prisoners in the state and release all those facing spurious charges, and
  • Punish the police and other officials responsible for carrying out torture and for filing spurious cases against them.

References:

[1] IADHRI Statement against the Torture and Politically Motivated Arrest of Soni Sori.

[2] They dared to speak up, but that’s not done in Chhattisgarh, Tehelka, 30 June, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/they-dared-to-speak-up-but-thats-not-done-in-dantewada/

[3] Activist Soni Sori gets bail in one more case. The Hindu, 31 May, 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/activist-soni-sori-gets-bail-in-one-more-case/article4767974.ece

[4] Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi denied bail by Chhattisgarh High Court, The Hindu,  8 July 2013. http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/soni-sori-lingaram-kodopi-denied-bail-by-chhattisgarh-high-court/article4895096.ece

[5] The Government will kill me, Tehelka, 7 April, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/the-government-will-kill-me/

[6] Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison: An International Women’s Day Video Montage. https://iadhri.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/reading-soni-soris-letters-from-prison-an-international-womens-day-video-montage/

[7] Soni Sori’s Husband, Anil Futane, Passes Away, Tehelka, 3 August, 2013. http://www.tehelka.com/soni-soris-husband-anil-futane-passes-away/

[8] The very right of living in this country has been snatched from me, Tehelka, 4 May, 2012. http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ws040512country.asp

 

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Video of activists who stormed the NCW office, demanding action to defend Soni Sori

On the 10th of October, 2012, around a hundred women and student activists stormed the NCW office on Delhi’s Deen Dayal Upadhayay Marg, protesting against its year-long inaction.

More information available here.

Statement on Bijapur Killings

International Alliance for the Defense of Human Rights in India (IADHRI) strongly condemns the recent killing of 17 adviasis, including 7 minors, by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel on the 28th of June in villages Rajpenta, Kottaguda and Sarkeguda in Bijapur district, Chhattisgarh.

Contrary to the claims by CRPF and the Home Minister of India that the deaths were the result of an encounter with Maoists, credible reports from independent fact-finding teams and the media suggest that the CRPF killed, without observing basic precautions, villagers who had gathered to plan for an upcoming seed sowing festival. These reports have been reinforced by testimony from villagers and eyewitnesses from outside the village, including media persons, who saw the bodies, before they were cremated, as having been brutalised with deep hacking cuts on the chests and foreheads.

The CRPF, rather than being the disciplined force it seeks to be, has shown little hesitation in killing unarmed villagers, dismissing these killings as encounters and those dead as Maoists is unacceptable. The prevarication by the Home Minister and the DIG of the CRPF regarding the authenticity of the killings is not only morally reprehensible, but should be culpable under the laws of the country as a dereliction of duty. While security forces have been given a license to kill people with impunity, the Home Minister of the country seems to treat innocent villagers as expendable, acceptable ‘collateral damage’, and shows little indication that he considers the continued violence that adivasis face at the hands of security forces, as an issue that needs to be fixed. By perpetuating this lack of accountability, the Home Minister is doing nothing less than encouraging extra-judicial killings. This should be criminal in a society that values human life.

It has become modus operandi for the state to use the claim that it is fighting Maoists to justify indiscriminate killings, quell dissent, displace communities, and pave way for the grab of land and mineral resources by powerful vested interests. The Home Ministry of India has been colluding with the administration of Raman Singh on this loot of public wealth (be it land, minerals, rivers or other vital resources), in the name of maintaining law and order. On the contrary, the denial of justice in cases such as the Bijapur massacre, does profound damage to the constitutional rights of all citizens of India and to prospects for peace in Chhattisgarh.

IADHRI demands that the State and Central Governments put an immediate halt to the “combing operations” that offer a cover for killing innocent people and destroying their villages. We  demand that those responsible for such reckless and indiscriminate killings, as well as those responsible for granting a carte blanche to security forces, face trial and be held answerable for their crimes.

We ask that the Governments of India and Chhattisgarh resume peace talks to secure justice and the well-being of all their people.

CG Govt denies Soni Sori food and medicines on her way back from AIIMS!

Press Statement – 20thJune 2012.

NO RESPITE FOR SONI SORI.

AIIMS SENDS HER BACK AFTER 5 WEEKS OF TREATMENT. 

CG GOVT DENIES HER FOOD AND MEDS ON HER WAY BACK ! 

Soni Sori continues to be ill-treated at the hands of Chhattisgarh government, after a brief breather during her treatment at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at New Delhi. She is now back in the Raipur Jail after spending 5 weeks recuperating in AIIMS, and the Chhattisgarh government has made clear its intentions of continuing ill-treatment of her, by denying her food, water and medicines immediately after discharge from AIIMS.

Soni Sori was brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on May 10th at the behest of the Supreme Court which ordered immediate and urgent treatment to be provided to her. Ms. Sori arrived in Delhi visibly weakened due to months of ill-treatment and improper medical treatment by the Chhattisgarh government. She was suffering from the continued impact –of the wounds inflicted on her during the inhuman sexual torture meted out to her in October, 2011 under police custody, which had been allowed to fester untreated in the jail. Consequently, she had grave secondary medical conditions, such as intermittent anal and vaginal bleeding, blisters on skin, difficulty in walking etc. at the time when she was brought to AIIMS

Over the 5 weeks of her treatment in AIIMS, she seemed to have recovered significantly, due to regular and expert medical care provided to her. But immediately after her discharge from AIIMS, Soni Sori has been denied her basic human rights yet again by the Chattisgarh government. Soni Sori’s counsel, Mr. Colin Gonsalves expressed his concern to the Chhattisgarh Government counsel, Mr. Atul Jha about no travel arrangements being made for her return to Chhattisgarh, to which Mr Jha assured Mr Gonsalves that every necessary precaution would be taken including, if need be, return to Raipur by flight (as she had been brought to Delhi). But despite these assurances, Soni Sori was taken to Raipur by train, in a crowded unreserved compartment. In scorching summer heat, Soni Sori was made to stand for most of the 24 hour long train journey from Delhi to Raipur, despite her fragile health condition. With daytime temperatures touching 45 degrees Celsius, she was denied water, kept without food for the whole day and not even given the medicines prescribed to her by the doctors at AIIMS.

It should be recalled that Soni Sori, an adivasi school teacher, had been subjected to brutal physical torture and sexual violence during her custody in the Dantewada police station on the night between 8th and 9th October, 2011.  Her torture had been confirmed by an independent medical examination conducted by the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata, during which stones lodged deep in her private parts had been recovered.  However, the medication prescribed by the NRS hospital had been discontinued by the jail authorities in Raipur Jail soon after her discharge, and Soni Sori had been denied any regular medical attention since the examination conducted by the NRS Hospital in October 2011.  In the absence of regular medical care and attention, Ms. Sori’s condition had steadily worsened, prompting the Supreme Court in June 2012 to order her to be brought to AIIMS in New Delhi for immediate medical treatment.

It was sheer and deliberate negligence on part of the Chhattisgarh Government that led to such deterioration in Soni Sori’s health in the first place, that the Supreme Court had to order immediate medical intervention by AIIMS. The manner in which Soni Sori is being treated after her discharge from AIIMS once again raises serious concerns about the intention of the Chhattisgarh government in ensuring her health and safety.  If her medicines are not administered with regularity, Soni will lose the little gains in health that she had made during her stay at AIIMS.

We urge the Chhattisgarh Government to ensure that Soni Sori’s health makes full recovery, and that the recommendations of the medical team at AIIMS regarding physical rest, nutrition and medication are followed diligently. We would like to remind the Government that undertrial prisoners such as Soni Sori are guaranteed basic human rights by the Indian constitution. Soni Sori has already suffered gravely at the hands of Chhattisgarh authorities, first through direct and malicious torture at the hands of the Chhattisgarh police, and then through apathy and negligence of the Chhattisgarh jail authorities. It is time for state violence against her to end.

Why is Linga Kodopi in Jail?

 

 

Press Release: Women’s Delegation Meets President Pratibha Patil on Custodial Sexual Torture of Soni Sori

A delegation of women comprising of, Brinda Karat (M.P.), Annie Raja (NFIW), Uma Chakravarty, Vrinda Grover and Indira C, met with President Pratibha Patil today (14th May), and handed over a memorandum, detailing the gross violation of the human rights of tribal teacher, Soni Sori. The memorandum was also signed by Aruna Roy (MKSS), Kavita Srivastava (PUCL) and Vani S. on behalf of Saheli.

The delegation drew the attention of the President to the brutal custodial sexual torture inflicted on Soni Sori by the Chhattisgarh police and the medical report of Kolkata Hospital which had confirmed the same. The President expressed surprise when she heard that S.P. Ankit Garg, under whose direction the custodial sexual violence was alleged to have been inflicted, had received the President’s Gallantry award. The delegation suggested that an independent enquiry be initiated into the gallantry award given to S.P. Ankit Garg. The delegation also expressed apprehension that many other tribal women prisoners in Chhattisgarh jails had suffered similar violations.

The President heard the delegation attentively and assured them that she would write to the concerned governments and authorities.

The Memorandum submitted by the delegation is available here.

Soni Sori admitted to AIIMS

Finally, Soni has been admitted in AIIMS -with two women cops and one male cop on duty at her room.

Her lawyer, Colin went to see her. He says she seems weak and anemic, and is complaining of burning and pain in her stomach, burning and blisters in her genital area, and complained that the Hospital in Raipur didn’t treat her properly as per the recommendations of the NRS Hospital Kolkata.

We hope that AIIMS will examine and diagnose her with due diligence and treat her accordingly.
It is long overdue for Soni to get good medical care. Next step justice. 
Besides that, things that have happened are:

  • Dr T N Seema, CPI (M), Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) raised the question in Parliament on what basis the admission was rejected at AIIMS, in whose custody Soni has been, why there has been no enquiry into her allegations and instead a gallantry award given to the SP Ankit Garg, etc today. Tribal Affairs Minister Kishore Chandra Deo has said he will look into the matter. So its a good piece of action.
  • It is also clear that she was kept in police custody last night – THOUGH she should have been kept in judicial custody
  • A letter was sent to the Home Minister seeking an explanation, and demanding that she be brought immediately to the hospital and admitted, as per the SC orders.
  • Delegations have met the NCW and NHRC seeking that they at least take her statement – since they have done nothing else so far. But they are hiding behind the excuse that the matter is sub-judice. NHRC said they will discuss and decide whether they can do so.  NCW has said they will see what interventions are now possible within their remit. We will follow both up.

Meanwhile, see The Hindu. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/article3403013.ece

Also, the PTI news piece (warning: it calls her a naxal sympathiser!): http://www.business-standard.com/generalnews/news/aiims-refusal-to-admit-naxal-sympathiser-to-be-probed-govt/6790/

– from concerned citizens

Urgent Alert on Soni Sori

Soni Sori was taken in the early hours of 9th May from Raipur Central Jail to be brought to AIIMS, following the SC orders of 2nd May. However, she was not admitted there and as of late night of 9th, there was no information about her whereabouts!

Hospital authorities have cited various reasons for not admitting her: that their medical review board had not yet been constituted, that she was produced at AIIMS after 4.00 PM and therefore could not be admitted, etc. None of these are convincing because the Supreme Court order clearly states Soni Sori should be admitted, evaluated by the review board and treated as required at AIIMS itself, and all necessary arrangements for her stay be made.
Of course, concerns for Soni’s safety and well-being run very deep, because of the horrific experiences she has had with the Chattisgarh Police.

The government should ensure that Soni is brought to AIIMS immediately and the authorities at AIIMS should admit her. The authorities need to demonstrate firmly that they respect, and will abide by, the order of the Supreme Court without any further delay.

AIDWA, SAHELI, WSS (on behalf of the campaign group in delhi)

IADHRI Cautiously Welcomes Supreme Court Order To Bring Soni Sori to AIIMS for Independent Medical Treatment

May 8, 2012

Contact: iadhri.org@gmail.com

The Supreme Court of India on May 2nd, 2012, ordered the government of Chhattisgarh to bring Soni Sori to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi for immediate and independent medical evaluation and treatment. The order came after a special hearing following reports of serious problems with Soni Sori’s health and complaints of denial of treatment by Chhattisgarh jail authorities. The International Alliance for the Defence of Human Rights in India (IADHRI) welcomes the Supreme Court order, but with serious reservations.

Prior to the Supreme Court hearing, IADHRI had submitted to the Prime Minister and other senior officials an open letter endorsed by more than 200 individuals, including Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze, Prof. Noam Chomsky and several other activists and other concerned individuals from around the world#. We have been distressed and extremely concerned about the unethical behaviour of doctors at the Raipur hospital, who have not taken her medical complaints seriously. The Supreme Court order validates our demand that Soni Sori should be given immediate access to health care outside of Raipur.

While we are hopeful that Soni Sori may finally receive at AIIMS the medical treatment that she has long needed, we also have several concerns:

  1. Sori is going to be under the control of the Chhattisgarh police while undergoing evaluation and treatment at AIIMS. It is this same police who subjected her to severe torture and sexual abuse. As the Supreme Court observed in its order, the investigating authorities have not satisfactorily explained the discovery of stones lodged inside Sori’s private parts. And there has been no investigation until now to hold the responsible officials accountable. Therefore, in the same spirit in which the Supreme Court ordered independent medical examination and treatment for Soni Sori, it should also have entrusted her to the independent custody of the Delhi police.

    We are also concerned because the Chhattisgarh police has a history of willful violations of Supreme Court orders. Of particular relevance here is the case of another adivasi woman, Sodi Sambho, who was a witness to a massacre committed by security forces on October 1, 2009, in the village of Gompad in Chhattisgarh. In January 2010, while she was en route to seek medical treatment at St. Stephen’s Hospital in Delhi for a bullet wound she had suffered during the massacre, Sodi was seized by the Chhattisgarh police and forcibly brought to AIIMS. This was in clear contravention of a Supreme Court order of January 7, 2010, which explicitly directed the police not to interfere with Sodi Sambho in any manner. The AIIMS security staff, in collusion with the Chhattisgarh police, prevented concerned citizens and those who had accompanied her from meeting with Sodi at AIIMS. Sodi’s current whereabouts are unknown. A writ petition regarding the massacre Sodi witnessed is still pending before the Supreme Court.

  2. Soni Sori has undergone severe physical and psychological trauma resulting from torture and its aftermath, which was further aggravated by the hostility, ridicule and indifference she has encountered from the jail and medical personnel in Chhattisgarh. We ask that the Board of Doctors constituted by the Supreme Court evaluate both physical and psychological aspects of her condition and provide appropriate treatment and counseling.

  3. The Supreme Court order makes clear that Sori’s advocate Colin Gonsalves will be entitled to visit her in AIIMS to ensure that the order is properly carried out. We are concerned that the Chhattisgarh government would interpret this restrictively and prevent others from meeting Sori while she is undergoing treatment at AIIMS.

    1. Sori is the mother of three young children. These children and their guardians should be allowed to see her in the hospital.

    2. As is well-known, Sori has been falsely implicated in several criminal cases. All her lawyers should be entitled to meet her while she is at AIIMS.

    3. Even convicted prisoners are allowed to have visitors. Undertrial prisoners like Sori have even more rights. They are allowed to receive a reasonable number of visitors including family, friends, advocates and their juniors,. It would be an unreasonable restriction on Sori and an arbitrary punishment that she receive no visitors at AIIMS other than two named advocates, one of whom represents the state.

    4. N. Baijendra Kumar, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh, had assured a women’s group in New Delhi last October of Sori’s safety and invited the group to visit her in the Raipur jail. However, a delegation sent by the group in January was turned away by the Raipur jail authorities. Considering the nature of abuse and her continuing custody with the accused police force, it is essential that representatives of concerned women’s groups be able to visit Sori at AIIMS to ensure that she is not subjected to further torture or harassment.

Bearing these concerns in mind, we call upon the government of Chhattisgarh to carry out the Supreme Court order in letter and spirit immediately and faithfully this time.

We also call upon the administration and the medical staff of AIIMS to follow the Supreme Court order and to remember their legal and ethical obligations. While examining and treating Soni Sori, AIIMS personnel, including the medical doctors, must bear in mind that:

  • Standards of medical ethics  and the law require that AIIMS personnel provide the same high quality care to Sori that they would provide to any other patient.

  • The medical doctors must examine both her physical and her psychological health and provide the required treatment remembering that she is a victim of torture and abuse.

  • Torture is unconstitutional and illegal under Indian and international law. Assisting torture in any way, including in its cover-up, is also an offense under these laws. It would also be completely unethical since medical professionals are duty-bound to alleviate the suffering and pain of their patients.

  • They should make sure that the Chhattisgarh police do not further harass or torture Soni Sori, physically or mentally, while she is in the hospital.

Soni Sori vs. Chhattisgarh: Supreme Court Order – 2nd May 2012

(Downloaded from http://www.courtnic.nic.in/courtnicsc.asp)

WP (Crl.) 206/2011
                                                                          1

ITEM NO.1                       COURT NO.2            SECTION X

               S U P R E M E       C O U R T   O F    I N D I A
                                RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS

                      CRL.M.P. NOS.1104, 4981 and 8976 OF 2012
                                          IN
                         WRIT PETITION (CRL.) NO.206 OF 2011

SONI SORI & ANR                                           Petitioner(s)

                       VERSUS

STATE OF CHHATISGARH                                      Respondent(s)

(With appln(s) for directions)

Date: 02/05/2012        This Petition was called on for hearing today.

CORAM :
                     HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE ALTAMAS KABIR
                     HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE J. CHELAMESWAR

For Petitioner(s)          Mr. Colin Gonsalves, Sr. Adv.
                           Ms. Amiy Shukla, Adv.
                           Ms. Jyoti Mendiratta, AOR

For Respondent(s)          Mr. Atul Jha, Adv.
                           Mr. Sandeep Jha, Adv.
                           Mr. Dharmendra Kumar Sinha, AOR

              UPON hearing counsel the Court made the following
                                  O R D E R

               This writ petition has been filed by one Ms. Soni
      Sori and another, complaining of brutality in custody and,
      inter alia, praying for a Special Investigating Team to be
      constituted for investigating the complaints made by her.
WP (Crl.) 206/2011
                                                                                                  2
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