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PRESS RELEASE— IADHRI Demands Freedom for Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Contact: [email protected]

25 October, 2013

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On Monday, 28th October, the Supreme Court of India will take up the bail petitions of Soni Sori and , adivasi prisoners in Chhattisgarh who have been incarcerated for more than two years. The arrest and the subsequent of in October 2011 drew international condemnation [1]. Much less widely known has been the arrest the previous month of Sori’s nephew, Kodopi, who was also subjected to by the police [2].

False charges were subsequently foisted on both of them, with Sori being implicated in eight cases and Kodopi in two cases. Sori was acquitted in all but two of the cases and Kodopi in one of the two cases. Sori was also granted bail in one of the two remaining cases [3]. The one remaining case against both of them relates to allegations of acting as a courier between Essar, a business conglomerate with steel manufacturing operations in Chhattisgarh, and the outlawed Maoist Communist Party of India. Though two other accused in this case, the general manager of the Essar operations in the state and a contract worker, were granted bail within months of their arrest, the trial court and the state High Court have denied Sori and Kodopi bail earlier this year [4] and it is their appeal against this decision that the Supreme Court is expected to hear on Monday.

Sori was arrested on October 4, 2011 in New Delhi, where she had gone seeking legal help, and taken by the Chhattisgarh police to Dantewada. As detailed in her letters from prison, she was tortured in police custody and sexually abused. Her allegations were substantiated by independent medical examinations conducted in Kolkata under the directions of the Supreme Court. While imprisoned in Raipur, she continued to face abuse and denial of medical care from the police and the jail authorities until the Supreme Court ordered that she be taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment [5,6].

Sori’s husband Anil Futane died last August 2nd, soon after being released from jail [7]. He was arrested in July 2010 and accused of involvement in the attack on the home of Congress politician and contractor Avdesh Gautam. Sori, Kodopi and fourteen others were also falsely implicated in this case but all of them were acquitted. According to other jail inmates, Futane was beaten so severely in the prison that he was paralyzed. They attribute his death to health complications resulting from torture and the failure of prison authorities to give him medical care.

Kodopi himself has undergone serious abuse and torture since his detention without charges in 2009, when he was locked up inside a toilet in a police station for forty days. He was freed the following year only after the intervention of the Chhattisgarh High Court responding to a habeas corpus petition. Facing continued threats from the police and the Maoists, he went to Delhi where he studied journalism for a year. During his time in Delhi, he spoke out against the atrocities committed by the police on the Adivasi communities. Soon after he graduated from his journalism program in April 2011, he returned to Chhattisgarh where police and paramilitary forces had burnt down the villages of Morpalli, Timmapuram and Tadmetla, killed three people and raped three women. He documented the scenes of these crimes and recorded video testimonies of the survivors [8].

The cases of Sori and Kodopi are not isolated. Especially (but not exclusively) in Chhattisgarh, thousands of other prisoners are known to be held for years on spurious charges, some of them are not charged for many years and held as under trials for long periods of time. The draconian provisions of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act enable the state police and other security officials to arrest and imprison anyone on dubious grounds, often to silence critical voices. Many of these prisoners are also known to undergo torture, sexual and other abuse at the hands of police and prison officials.

During her more than two years of incarceration, the Supreme Court of India has been the only institution from which Soni Sori has been able to get any judicial relief. We are hopeful, therefore, that this time too, the Supreme Court would decide in her and Kodopi’s favor and grant them bail. However, as we have pointed out many times and as corroborated by human rights organizations and groups such including PUCL, PUDR, International and Human Rights Watch, Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi deserve to be free. Now bereft of their father, Sori’s three young children need to be urgently reunited with their mother. Therefore, we reiterate our demand that the Chhattisgarh government

  • Drop all charges against Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi

  • Compensate them for all the suffering and cruelty inflicted on them,

  • Conduct an impartial and expeditious investigation of all the cases of prisoners in the state and release all those facing spurious charges, and

  • Punish the police and other officials responsible for carrying out torture and for filing spurious cases against them.

References:

[1] IADHRI Statement against the Torture and Politically Motivated Arrest of Soni Sori.

[2] They dared to speak up, but that’s not done in Chhattisgarh, Tehelka, 30 June, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/they-dared-to-speak-up-but-thats-not-done-in-dantewada/

[3] Activist Soni Sori gets bail in one more case. The Hindu, 31 May, 2012. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/activist-soni-sori-gets-bail-in-one-more-case/article4767974.ece

[4] Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi denied bail by Chhattisgarh High Court, The Hindu,  8 July 2013.http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/soni-sori-lingaram-kodopi-denied-bail-by-chhattisgarh-high-court/article4895096.ece

[5] The Government will kill me, Tehelka, 7 April, 2012. http://www.tehelka.com/the-government-will-kill-me/

[6] Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison: An International Women’s Day Video Montage.http://iadhri.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/reading-soni-soris-letters-from-prison-an-international-womens-day-video-montage/

[7] Soni Sori’s Husband, Anil Futane, Passes Away, Tehelka, 3 August, 2013. http://www.tehelka.com/soni-soris-husband-anil-futane-passes-away/

[8] The very right of living in this country has been snatched from me, Tehelka, 4 May, 2012. http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main52.asp?filename=Ws040512country.asp

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