The 36 year old adivasi school teacher’s life seems typical of Dantewada’s educated and aspirational middle class. Her house in Sameli village opens into a small seating area with a TV, plastic flowers and small wall paintings. The mixer grinder is not placed in the kitchen but carefully perched on a bedroom shelf. The cupboards and boxes are full of attendance registers and neatly folded pairs of children clothes in smart local brands.
A kilometre ahead, turning away from the asphalt road painted with Maoist graffiti, lies Jabeli village, and the ashramshala or residential school where Soni taught. It is ramshackle building with a tin shed.
“The Maoists destroyed all school buildings in the area, except Sameli and Jabeli ashramshalas,” said a school teacher. “Soni was the only teacher who lived in the area. This made her an easy target for suspicion. And after the police named her in the attack on Avdesh Gautam (a local congress leader), whispers about her links with Maoists grew and officials started fearing her”