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“The only way to crush a rebellion is to crush it with blood and fire and to wound them so that they’ll never dare to raise a hand again” – Rachel Caine.
The second best method is to deprive the so-called rebels of all kinds of media or legal support. This is what the police have been trying to achieve through Operation Eviction in Bastar, Chhattisgarh. Anyone reporting about the alleged rapes and killings by security forces in Bastar, or providing legal aid to the Adivasis wrongly accused of helping the Maoists there is being evicted –Malini Subramaniam, the Scroll.in contributor, lawyers Shalini Gera and Isha Khandewal (Legal Aid Group, Jagdalpur).
The next weapon of intimidation is, of course, to warn the so-called “rebels” by attacking their most formidable leader, which in this case happens to be Soni Sori, an Adivasi school teacher turned political leader in Sameli village of Dantewada in south Bastar.
Her social and political background
Since she has been standing up for the cause of those Adivasis who have been wrongly tortured by policemen in the name of being aids to the naxals, she had been termed as a “rebel” time and again. In 2011, for example, she had been arrested by the Delhi Police’s Crime Branch for Chhattisgarh Police since was accused of acting as a conduit for Maoists. According to her, she was tortured and sexually harassed by the state police during her imprisonment. However, she was acquitted of six out of eight cases filed against her by the Indian courts by April 2013.
She was released on bail in 2014 and joined Aam Aadmi Party in order to contest an election and transform the system through legal means. Although she lost the general election, she continued her social work. In October last year, she brought to light the rape of three women in Bijapur. AAP state convener Sanket Thakur told DNA, “She had complained to the collector about the brutal assault of three women in Sukma district and had also complained against the gang rape of women in January in Bijapur and also the fake encounter of a farmer in February first week. We had proofs that all these atrocities were carried out by security forces and the police, but they obviously didn’t like that.” Soni had also been trying to lodge a complaint against Inspector General SRP Kalluri, Bastar without any success. The district civic authorities had even warned her that her house in Geedam would be demolished.
Latest Adivasi Demonstration
Last Monday about 5000 Adivasis had taken part in a peaceful and silent demonstration on the national highway, against the arrest of a primary school cook, Hadma Mutchaki of Hamirgarh village. He was accused of aiding the Maoists in murdering a police informer and the protestors alleged that he was wrongly framed. There was no chakka jam or halting of traffic on the national highway between Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh, as alleged by the police. Soni Suri was at the forefront here, too, urging the protestors to shift base to outside Tongal police station in Sukam, Chhattisgarh.
Three protestors, Hidma Kawasi, Ramji Mandavi and Podiyami Budhra were arrested, allegedly beaten up by the police, and detained for more than 24 hours on the orders of the sub-divisional magistrate. “No one can be detained for more than 24 hours,” said Shalini Gera. “The men were still in prison on Thursday due to unexplained, extraordinary administrative delays. For instance, the release order communicated by the magistrate on Wednesday late afternoon did not reach the prison till Thursday afternoon.” No wonder the lawyers were served the eviction notice.
However, intimidating Soni Sori was not so easy, so those in collusion with the police have warned her by smearing a corrosive material on her face while she was from returning from Jagdalpur to Dantewada on a motorbike with her party associate, Rinki, on Saturday night. Soni and Rinki had gone to see off Isha and Shalini before they would leave Jagdalpur due to police pressure. On their way back, about ten kilometers to Geedam, they were stopped by three men on a motorbike. One of them dragged Rinki away telling her that he would rip open her stomach with a knife if she tried to do anything, another held Soni’s hands on her back while the third smeared the corrosive material on her face. She was warned that her daughter would be the next target.
It was not an acid attack, but since then Soni has been having intense pain, burnt face, and is not able to speak or open her eyes. The ophthalmologist at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi, where she was later admitted, opines that her eyes appear to be normal though she has orbital and conjunctival oedema.
“They tried to bury us, they did not know we were seeds” (Mexican proverb). That might hold true for Soni Sori, but what about the others? The attack on her might well achieve the larger objective of intimidating the others questioning the police to silence.
The Logical Indian community strongly condemns the attack on Soni Sori and stands by her in this hour of anguish. The very fact that media persons and lawyers are being evicted points out that there is something fishy going on which is being suppressed. We demand that the evidence against all those accused of helping the Maoists be made public. At the same time, if AAP has any evidence against police atrocities, that should be revealed, too. Thereafter, the legal process should be followed. Only then the correct picture can emerge.