Sunday 29th April 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
In an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister of India and other officials, about 250 concerned activists, academics, intellectuals, students, professionals and democratic organisations have demanded immediate medical attention for the Adivasi school teacher, Soni Sori, 35, currently in custody in Raipur Central Jail, Chhattisgarh. Sori’s condition is believed to be rapidly deteriorating as a result of torture and sexual abuse at the hands of the Chhattisgarh police. She is the mother of three young children. Signatories to the letter include members of the National Advisory Council Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy, writers Arundhati Roy and Meena Kandasamy, respected economist Jean Dreze, Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan and renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky.
Soni Sori was arrested in Delhi on 4th October, 2011, where she had gone to seek legal assistance, fearing for her life after repeated harassment by the Chhattisgarh state police. Despite her pleas in the courts that she be held in Delhi, she was sent back to Chhattisgarh. After seeing preliminary indications that she had been tortured in police custody, the Supreme Court ordered an independent medical examination at NRS Medical College, Kolkata, where doctors found stones lodged in her vagina and rectum. In a series of letters written to the Supreme Court Advocate from jail, Sorirecounted how she was stripped, electrocuted, and physically and sexually tortured by the police.
More than six months after she was tortured, Sori continues to be imprisoned in Chhattisgarh and has received virtually no follow up medical treatment for the injuries she sustained in police custody and the infections that have developed as a consequence. According to two people (one of whom is her lawyer) who were allowed to meet Sori in prison last week, her face was visibly swollen and her hands and feet appeared abnormally thin, indicating severe weight loss. Sori complained of a severe burning sensation while passing urine and of blisters on her thighs and her private parts. The magistrate in the Dantewada court, where Sori was produced earlier in the week, is reported to have remarked that she appeared unwell. According to the jail doctor in Raipur, Sori suffers from fluctuating and high blood pressure and from anaemia. Yet, on those occasions when she has been taken to the Raipur Medical College, she met with ridicule, indifference and inadequate care from the doctors and other hospital personnel. Police interference with the doctors is also suspected.
No investigation or action has been initiated against the police officers responsible for her torture. On the contrary, Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg, named in Sori’s letters, was awarded a Gallantry Medal on Republic Day, 2012. Sori’s petition before the Supreme Court asking to be transferred out of Chhattisgarh has been subjected to repeated delays and is still pending. Her health continues to deteriorate in the meantime.
Sori is just one of many women subject to torture and sexual violence in custody. In a recent report, the Asian Centre for Human Rights documented that four custodial deaths had occurred daily in India over the past decade. Those demanding medical attention for Sori fear the worst by the time she is granted a final hearing.
Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Shri P. Chidambaram, Home Minister
Shri Shekhar Dutt, Governor of Chhattisgarh
Shri Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh
We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by the rapidly worsening health of Soni Sori in Raipur Central Jail. She has been passing blood with her urine, is having difficulty to sit or get up, and has lost considerable weight. Despite doctors from NRS Medical Hospital having confirmed that stones had been inserted into her vagina and rectum, Soni Sori has received no proper medical attention. We fear for Soni’s life and are outraged and ashamed at this inhuman treatment of a woman in India.
Soni Sori, 35, is an adivasi school teacher from Dantewada who was arrested in New Delhi on Oct 4 2011. Six months have passed since Soni was tortured physically and sexually but neither the state nor the central government has investigated the abuse. Her case has been repeatedly listed up in the Supreme Court but has been postponed every time. Throughout the duration of Soni Sori’s imprisonment, the state has also tried to stifle her communications with the civil society. In January this year, a team from various women’s groups across the country went to Raipur Jail to meet Soni, but they were prevented from doing so by the administration.
The brutal treatment meted out to Soni Sori, and the prevailing situation of conflict and repression in Chhattisgarh, cause us grave concern about Soniin particular, and the situation of women prisoners, in general. We demand immediate access for fact-finding groups to meet with Soni Sori and others to assess their condition in jail, particularly their medical situation. We fear that Soni Sori’s condition is rapidly deteriorating, and demand that she receive immediate medical attention.
Meena Kandaswamy, Poet, Writer, Activist
Prof. Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus, MIT
Prashant Bhushan, Advocate, Supreme Court of India
Anand Patwardhan, Filmmaker
Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Dr. Deepankar Basu, Prof of Economic, UMass Amherst
Dr. Prithvi R Sharma, MD
Jean Dreze, Allahabad University
Uma Chakravarti, Retd Professor, Delhi University
Anand Chakravarti, Retd Professor, Delhi University
Arundhati Roy, Writer & Social Activist
Mohan Rao, Professor, JNU, Delhi
Dr. Abha Sur, Women Studies, MIT
Hiren Gandhi, Darshan, Amhedabad
Dr. Saroop Dhruv, Darshan, Amhedabad
Dr. Suvrat Raju, Harish-Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad
Manasi Pingle, Film Maker
Admiral L Ramdas, Former Chief of Naval Staff, Alibag
Lalita Ramdas, Alibag
Prof. K.N. Panikkar
Dr. KS Sripada Raju
and more than 200 others.
(Complete list of signatories at http://iadhri.wordpress.com/
- Immediate Release-Reading Soni Sori’s Letters from Prison – Video Montage Marks International Women’s Day (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Chidambaram promises action in Soni Sori case (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Soni Sori’s letter from Raipur Central Jail- Audio-Hindi and English (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Human Rights Watch writes to PMO re Soni Sori’s case (kractivist.wordpress.com)
- Gallantry Award for Sexual Torture on Republic Day in India (kractivist.wordpress.com)