GEEDAM, BASTAR: A tribal school teacher born in Jabeli village of Dantewada who was arrested in 2011 on charges of acting as conduit for Maoists and released later in 2013, Soni Sori had alleged of sexual assault by police during her imprisonment in has turned not only into a political leader of Aam Aadmi Party but is also emerging as a powerful tribal front-runner in Bastar.

Sori is now a member of Aam Aadmi Party, though she contested in 2014 general elections but lost to Dinesh Kashyap of the BJP, could get only one vote due to Maoist insurgency in the region.

Learning a hard lesson, Sori feels that the struggle of three-four years has transformed her from a simple school teacher in government school to an aggressive and defensive leader for tribals. “My journey from school to four jails, hospitals and court has given me new life. With support from activists across the globe, energy was injected in me to contest polls and even after losing, I stand tall to fight for tribals who suffer similar torture and forced into jails.”

“In the last five months, Sori has become voice of tribal in Bastar region. Tribal population often go through atrocities of police and false arrest on suspicion of being Maoist supporters or sympathizers. There was no person who could provide them aid but it is for the first time in history of Bastar that tribals take out intensive mass protest (upto 40,000) on unjust arrest of tribal people,” a local tribal said.

With recent unity seen among tribals, Sori feels that the gap between elections and present status has brought big change and she claims, “If polls take place today, I will surely win with most tribal population in my favour.”