Karela Fry

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Soni Sori

leave a comment »

Hardnews carried the text of an open letter written by 200 eminent persons to the supreme court of India on the case of Soni Sori, a schoolteacher who has been sexually tortured in police custody:

As citizens, we look to you, Honourable Judges of the highest court of law in our land, to protect the rights of those who stand powerless, marginalised by society due to their class, caste, gender or ethnic origins. In particular, we believe that sometimes only the Supreme Court can safeguard the right to life of citizens, when every other avenue has failed to do so.

This is especially so in the case of Soni Sori, a tribal woman on whom gross sexual torture has been inflicted while in police custody in Chhattisgarh. We write to you with deep dismay at her continued vulnerability despite her repeated pleas for protection from various courts, and urge you to give serious attention to the grave violation of the rights of a tribal woman undertrial, the facts and documents regarding which are pending before the Supreme Court in the case. (WRIT PETITION (CRL) NO. 206 OF 2011 ). Briefly:

Soni Sori is a 35 year old adivasi school teacher and warden of a government‐run school for tribal children in Jabeli, Dantewada ‐ one of the few operational schools in the area, till the Chhattisgarh Police forced her to flee from Dantewada in early September 2011. She has been arrested and is being tried as a suspected Maoist supporter in several cases.

Soni Sori was arrested in Delhi on 4th October 2011 after she had exposed significant evidence of being framed by the Chhattisgarh Police in multiple cases, including the Essar bribery case to the newsmagazine, Tehelka. (http://tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ne151011coverstory).

On 10th October 2011 Soni Sori was to be produced before the Court of the Magistrate in Dantewada. However Soni Sori, who had been in perfect health when she was remanded to the custody of Chhattisgarh Police in Delhi, was in such terrible physical pain that she could not even stand up or step out of the police van and reach the courtroom. The police claimed ‘she slipped in the bathroom and had hurt her head’. That day, Soni Sori did not appear in person before the Magistrate, nor did the Magistrate see her – only a court clerk came to the police van and yet, it is wrongly recorded in the Order sheet that she was produced before the Magistrate who remanded her to judicial custody for 14 days.

The examining doctors at the Dantewada District Hospital and the Government Medical College in Jagdalpur have recorded that ‘she has a history of unconsciousness’, that she is ‘unable to stand due to pain in lumbar region; and that she has injuries on her head and back, and that black marks were observed on her toes’ – indicating she had received electric shocks.

In subsequent statements to relatives, her lawyer and a letter addressed to the Supreme Court itself, Soni Sori has described the custodial torture that she was subjected to. She has stated that she was ‘pulled out of her cell at the Dantewada Police Station on the night of 8/9 October 2011 and taken to SP Ankit Garg’s room.’ There she was stripped and given electric shocks and that stones and batons were inserted into her private parts’. When she awoke the next morning, she had severe aches all over her body, especially her neck and spine, and acute pain in her lower abdomen. She has subsequently informed her lawyer (affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court), that she found several stones inserted in her vagina, many of which she managed to remove herself, but not all.

The Supreme Court (in WRIT PETITION (CRL)NO. 206 OF 2011 ) observed that the injuries against her person did not appear to be as simple as the State was making them out to be, and ordered an independent medical examination in NRS Medical College Hospital in Kolkata. The medical report, presented to the Supreme Court on 25th November, 2011 states that two stones were found inserted deep inside her vagina and one in her rectum. The MRI scan also reveals annular tears on her spine. All irrefutable evidence of custodial sexual abuse and torture that Soni Sori has suffered at the hands of Chhattisgarh Police.

Yet, on 1st December 2011, the Supreme Court ordered that Soni Sori remain in the custody of the Chhattisgarh State for an additional period of 55 days until the next hearing on 25th January, 2012.

That Soni Sori has suffered custodial violence at the hands of the Chhattisgarh Police, in spite of the attention of the Court, the national media and the explicit orders of the Delhi High Court to ensure her safety, is extremely worrisome. It points towards a dangerous and flagrant contempt for law by the police in Chhattisgarh.

We hope that the Supreme Court will ensure that justice is finally done to this tribal undertrial woman and will set precedent to provide effective protection to the legal and human rights enshrined in the Constitution of India, especially for those placed in such vulnerable conditions.

On January 26, 2012, the anniversary of the adoption of the Indian constitution, the police officer accused of supervising this assault on Soni Sori was awarded a medal for gallantry by the union government, reports the Hindu:

On Republic Day, the officer, Ankit Garg, was awarded the [President’s] Police Medal for Gallantry for his role in an October 9, 2010 counterinsurgency operation, in which about 250 members of the State’s Special Task Force and district police ambushed Maoist guerrillas in Mahasamund district. Six Maoists were killed and two civilians, including a deaf and mute manual labourer, died in controversial circumstances. The police maintained that the civilians were caught in the crossfire in the course of a fluid operation.

Mr. Garg was subsequently appointed Superintendent of Police of Dantewada when Ms. Sori was arrested in October 2011 and accused of acting as a Maoist courier.

In a series of letters submitted to the Supreme Court, Ms. Sori says Mr. Garg verbally abused her and directed police personnel to torture her. She alleged that Mr. Garg watched as junior police personnel stripped her naked, administered electric shocks and assaulted her. According to her lawyers, a medical examination found two stones in Ms. Soni’s genital tract and another in her rectum.

Advertisements

Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

January 29, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: