Respected Prathibha Patil,
I request you to read this letter completely. It might be a long letter to you, but this is the reality that your citizens, especially women, are undergoing at the hands of your own government in your country. This is also a serious matter that has to be addressed by someone. Obviously this kind of violence has to be addressed by the government or the law. Unfortunately, in this case, the perpetrators are the government people or people who whose responsibility is to protect people’s rights and law. This is the main reason that I am sending this to you, as you are in the supreme position in India and you can take the decisions. Moreover, I respect you as a woman and feel more than anyone else in this position, you can understand a woman’s pain, violation of rights and violence by the state on women.
This is the voice of a woman, an Adivasi woman, who has undergone cruelty at the hands of the cruel, inhuman government as a victim. Please listen to this with your hands on your heart. I am sure that you cannot ignore this as a human being and as a woman. You might ask/think, who am I to state all these and why to you and my answer to this is that I am a citizen of the country where you are the President. I am a human being and a responsible human being and a citizen, who has humanity. I am also stating this out to you as I feel these issues are anti-human that is inhuman. I believe, as per the constitution, no individual should be discriminated or violated of rights, nor should they undergo violence at the hands of the government. This is the reason that I strongly believe that I have the right to question any injustice in this country. I also believe that you also have the same responsibility not just as a president but also as a citizen of this country. As a citizen and a human being of this country I insist you to listen to this voice of an Adivasi woman who is facing injustice and violence from your own government or governing people.
I am just a citizen in this country and you are a citizen who has more power than me to control violence and violations against women’s rights and injustice. It is a woman’s rights violation and violence issue and so you have more responsibility to listen to this as woman.
“Giving me electric shocks, stripping me naked, shoving stones inside me – is this going to solve the Naxal problem?” – Soni Sori in a letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court “don’t leave me among these people…Was the abuse on me not enough?…This is a plea from a helpless daughter…This is a mother’s plea for her children”, she says.
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 medical exam found small stones in her vagina and rectum. 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. 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.’’
• Independently investigate the conduct of Chhattisgarh law enforcement officials in the Soni Sori case.
• Ensure the provision of appropriate health care to Soni Sori without police interference.
• Set up a high-level independent investigation team to look at the condition of women detainees and prisoners, including in the state of Chhattisgarh, to determine whether other women may have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, and whether women detainees and prisoners in general have adequate 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.
Lekshmi Mohan (Sunil Mohan)
Transperson from LesBiT