Stop Custodial Violence on Women
“Giving me electric shocks, stripping me naked, shoving stones inside me..Was the abuse on me not enough?…This is a plea from a helpless daughter…This is a mother’s plea for her children”,- Soni Sori in a letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
Soni Sori, a 35-year-old Adivasi school teacher in Chhattisgarh, has been languishing in Raipur Jail since October 2011, she has written letters from jail asking the Nation to help her. Soni has been tortured by the Chhattisgarh police – she complained that she was stripped naked and given electric shocks. A recent medical examination ordered by the Supreme Court at NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkatta found stones inserted in her vagina and rectum. Medical reports submitted to the court three days after her arrest show she sustained a head injury caused by a “hard and blunt object”, that she had tenderness in her back, and blackened fingers –a classic sign of electrocution.
The torture was under the supervision of Ankit Garg, Superintendent of Police. In a terrible twist of events he was given the President’s Award on Republic Day. Soni lives in Dantewada. a Naxalite stronghold. Last year, Soni fought with the Naxalites when they tried to stop her form hoisting the national flag on Independence Day. Naxalites shot her father in the leg saying he was a police informer. Yet the police first arrested her husband, and now Soni, for being Naxalite supporters! Because she has constantly fought for her people’s rights – for minimum wages. She has taken on powerful companies that want the Adivasis’ land, and the Chhattisgarh government that supports these companies. She has taken on the police for their illegal activities. Her nephew Lingaram Kodopi who has been arrested on the same charges is a trained journalist who has reported on the abysmal human rights record of the Chhattisgarh government from the ground. Now, fed up of being in jail, far from her three young children, Sori has gone on hunger strike. In a letter to her lawyer she writes: “We Adivasis are only fated to suffer atrocities and die. We Adivasis are a business for the government.’’
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 illegal. 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 orders. She was also incarcerated in police lockup for 24 hours against Supreme Court orders when taken to Kolkata for a medical re-examination. Soni has now testified on video that she has been threatened by the police to not reveal her custodial torture for fear that they will arrest her brother, the sole caretaker of her children.
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.
*Immediately transfer Soni Sori out of the custody of Chhattisgarh police and ensure the provision of appropriate health care to Soni Sori without police interference.
*Set up an independent investigation into the conduct of Chhattisgarh law enforcement officials in 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
*Ensure the speedy completion of trial of Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi so that they do not languish for years in custody when their guilt has not been proven.
*Show public proof of the good health and safety of Lingaram Kodopi and other prisoners in Chhattisgarh police custody.
*Set up a high-level independent investigation team to look at the condition of prisoners, especially women, including in the state of Chhattisgarh, to determine whether other women may have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, and investigate the reality of prisoners’ access to health care.
*Enact the Prevention of Torture Bill and remove the need for prior state authorization to initiate criminal action against the officials implicated in custodial torture. Ratify the Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
*Ensure that the latest central government grants to states to set up police stations in Maoist areas include support for independent monitoring of detention facilities including station lockups and jails by human rights commissions and civil society groups. Consider requiring police to videotape interrogations, especially in police stations in Naxalite areas.
*Work with civil society groups to train police on proper conduct toward women in custody.
*End the use of custodial torture, lengthy custodial holding on false charges, and constant police harassment as tools of repression against the adivasi and other residents of Chhattisgarh.
Come join us for a protest against the custodual torture and sexual assault of Soni Sori and many such women on 24th March 2012, Saturday, at Town Hall Steps, at 6.PM
LesBiT, SICHREM, Vimochana, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression: WSS -Karnataka and WSS-National, People’s Union for Civil Liberties: PUCL-Bangalore, Alternative Law Forum (ALF)