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Tribal activist explains why she is not contesting this time.

Soni Sori, a teacher, who became the visible face of victims of brutal custodial torture in Chhattisgarh, has emerged as a key tribal voice in Dantewada. Though she was defeated in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Ms. Sori has decided to stay away from the Assembly polls, but not because peace has come to Bastar.

Before the 2014 Lok Sabha election, you joined the Aam Aadmi Party to contest. But this time you have stayed away from the Assembly polls…

I was always little unsure about joining politics and fighting elections. But it was explained to me by many that I should join as at that time [2014] it was a question of my security. I was planning to return to the State and there were severe threats. So I took the AAP offer to contest so that I could be provided some security.

AAP has not renewed its offer this time?

It did. In fact they were forcing me to contest but I decided not to. I thought of generally staying at home and working with girls here.

Why? Have the problems of the tribal people in south Chhattisgarh been addressed and thus you do not need to go the Assembly to highlight the issues?

This question is often asked. But I may need some time to decide.

You met Rahul Gandhi. Did he ask you to join the Congress and contest?

He told me that their door is open for me and I can join any time. I met P.L. Punia (in charge of the Congress in Chhattisgarh) also and he said the same thing.

Somehow, it seems from outside that Bastar is more peaceful now. Is that a reason you are not too keen to contest?

It is not at all correct to say that the situation is peaceful in Bastar. Tribal people are tortured and jailed as they used to be over the years. You may say (in one go) 10 to 12 people used to be killed when S.R.P. Kalluri was the Inspector-General of Police in Bastar. It has reduced a little — may be not 10 or12 but two or three are killed. So we can’t say Bastar is peaceful. Even those who participated in Salwa Judum against the tribal people are suffering… The situation is far from normal. But regarding my participation … maybe, I need little time.

You are supporting girls who have been tortured and displaced, but you have no financial support. If the State government comes forward, will you talk to them?

I can talk to anyone if they are willing to talk on any issue.

Will you be contesting the Lok Sabha election?

I have not retired from politics and will decide on the basis of the situation…at that point.

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