The undersigned groups from Karnataka State strongly condemn the custodial sexual assault and torture of Soni Sori, an Adivasi school teacher from the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. A recent medical examination ordered by the Supreme Court at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkatta found stones inserted in her vagina and rectum1. Medical reports submitted to the court three days after her arrest show she sustained a contusion in the occipital region of her head caused by a “hard and blunt object”, and that she had tenderness in the sacrum of her back, and blackened fingers – the latter being a classic sign of electrocution2,3. In a recent letter to the Supreme Court, she has stated in clear terms that she had been stripped, electrocuted and tortured4. The evidence points to her having been tortured in custody in complete violation of her constitutional rights and any standard of decency.
Due process has been violated in the case of Soni Sori repeatedly. When these injuries prevented Soni from being produced before a magistrate, an order converting her police custody into extended judicial custody was still signed by Additional District Judge Yogita Wasik without her presence – which is completely illegal2,5. She was outside the court in a vehicle and never left it. She was chained to the bed while undergoing treatment for her injuries in a Raipur hospital, explicitly against Supreme Court orders1. Soni was also incarcerated in police lockup for 24 hours against Supreme Court orders when taken to Kolkata for a medical re-examination6. Soni has testified in a video recorded statement that she has been threatened by the police to not reveal her custodial torture for fear that they will arrest her brother, who is the sole caretaker of her children.
Soni Sodi and her nephew Lingaram Kodopi have been framed by charges that they were collecting money on behalf of the Maoists from the company Essar. Constable Mankar from the Kirandul police station admitted to fabricating the charges in a phone conversation with Soni Sodi recorded by Tehelka7. Both Soni and Lingaram have repeatedly taken a stand against the exploitation of their people and have been declared prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Lingaram has trained to become a journalist and began reporting on the abysmal human rights record of the Chhattisgarh government from the ground. He has now been incarcerated and allegedly tortured, as has Sodi Soni after four previous false charges were filed against her to coerce her to help frame Lingaram on false charges.
Therefore we demand
- An investigation into the custodial sexual assault and torture of Soni Sori and the immediate suspension of the responsible officers and prosecution under the PoA Act pending this inquiry.
- The transfer of Soni Sori out of the custody of Chhattisgarh Police.
- Public proof of the good health and safety of Lingaram Kodopi and an investigation into the possibility of custodial torture of his case.
- An end to the use of lengthy custodial holding on false charges, custodial torture, and constant harassment by the police in retaliation against political activists
- An immediate end to the state-sponsored assault on the lives of the adivasi and other residents of Chhattisgarh.
The narrative of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi is not an unusual one. Hundreds of people across the country fighting against the state and corporate grabbing of land, water and forest resources and labor exploitation have been incarcerated upon false charges. Some other heinous cases are those of cultural activist Jiten Marandi from Jharkhand who has been sentenced to death on false charges alongside Manoj Rajwar, Chhatrapati Mandal and Anil Ram; the incarceration of CPI member Kartam Joga who was the first petitioner in a victorious legal case for the disbanding of the vigilante force Salwa Judum given its history of rampant human rights violations; the incarceration of Vanvasi Chetna Ashram worker Sukhnath Oyami; the continuous incarceration of Irom Sharmila who has been fasting for the repeal of AFSPA; the booking of dalit activist Sudhir Dhawale under UAPA; the abduction and immediate re-incarceration of Arun Ferreira on fresh charges immediately upon his being acquitted of previous false charges. All these cases of false charges placed upon politically active citizens need to undergo speedy trials so that custodial imprisonment and torture during delayed trials is not used as a tool to intimidate and hold politically active people captive.
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression: WSS -Karnataka and WSS-National, Peoples’ Democratic Forum, People’s Union for Civil Liberties: PUCL- Bangalore, PUCL-Karnataka and PUCL- National, SICHREM, Alternative Law Forum (ALF), Citizens for Justice and Peace-Tamil Nadu, Maraa, Concern, Indian Institute of Science, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, REDS, Saheli-Delhi, Vimochana, LesBiT, Moving Republic, New Socialist Alternative, People’s Solidarity Concerns, Visual Search, Karnataka Sex Workers Union, Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum, SCM-India
Pushpa Achanta, Member WSS-Karnataka; Uma V Chandru, Member PUCL-Bangalore and WSS-Karnataka; Kaveri Rajaraman Indira, Member, PDF, LesBiT, Concern; Rajesh Srinivas; Sravanthi Dasari; Dr. V. Lakshminarayana, General Secretary, PUCL-Karnataka; Dr. E. Rati Rao, Vice President, PUCL-Karnataka; M C Raj, REDS; Jyothi, REDS; Lawrence Summers, Environment Economist; Gee Ameena Suleiman; Nithu Chichu; Sumathi Murthy; Soundarya, Concern; Shubhendu Sen Roy, Concern; Shakun D, Vimochana; Bela Bhatia, member, WSS national campaign; Elavarthi Manohar-Praja Rajakiya Vedike; Priya Prabhu; Dr.Vijay Chandru – Member, High Panel for Science and Technology, UNESCO; Anuradha Talwar – Member WSS National campaign; Pushkar Raj – General Secretary, PUCL National; Pradeep Esteves; Neelima P. Aryan; Vinay Bhat, AID; Parvathy Prem, AID; Karthik Ranaganathan, AID; Tathagatha Sengupta, AID; Santosh Rohit, AID
Kaveri Indira 7760235234 firstname.lastname@example.org; Uma V Chandru 9844080227 email@example.com; Rajesh 9886155148 firstname.lastname@example.org; Pushpa Achanta 9886685896 email@example.com
- Supreme Court order regarding Soni Sori’s medical examination, October 20 2011.
- Affidavit 1 regarding Soni Sori filed in Supreme Court: http://www.freebinayaksen.org/?p=2802
- Affidavit 2 regarding Soni Sori filed in Supreme Court: http://courtnic.nic.in/supremecourt/temp/2062011420102011p.txt
- Soni Sori’s letter http://www.otherindia.org/dev/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&layout=blog&id=44&Itemid=178