Adivasi school teacher and activist Soni Sori, 41, is the face of democratic protest in the Bastar region and is known for her outspoken stance against alleged violence perpetuated by the state against the tribal people. From having had an acid-like chemical thrown on her face by unknown assailants in Chattisgarh’s Maoist insurgency-hit Dantewada district last year to having allegedly suffered horrific torture in custody, she is no stranger to violence.
However, Sori, who is now an AAP Leader, is undaunted and feisty as we discovered when she was in Delhi recently to attend the World Congress against Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls. At the press conference, Sori reiterated the need for the rule of law to be followed in Bastar.
“The rule of law should be followed but that never happens. There are many rapes suffered by Adivasi women—we filed a case for 40 women of our region who were raped three years ago. The case was against the police. We are still to get justice. We believe in the rule of law, in the constitution, in democracy… but the rules are for everyone, whether it’s a politician or a policeman or the aam aadmi. If the rule of law is followed, all the atrocities happening to Adivasi women can be addressed,” she said.
“I have been harassed as well. It’s been four years now and my case is still pending,” she added. “In Bastar, there are girls of 15 and 16 who have been thrown into jail without investigation or evidence, who will only be let off ‘baizzat‘ after 10 years when much of their life has been wasted. They will neither be able to marry nor bear children.They have been raped and their breasts cut off. Who is going to compensate these women for the lost years of their lives? We want justice, not compromise,” said Sori.
Sori was arrested in 2011 by the Delhi Police Crime Branch for the Chattisgarh police for allegedly being a conduit for Maoist rebels among other charges. Sori was in Delhi at the time of her arrest, having fled Chattisgarh, where she claimed that she was being persecuted by the state machinery. The tribal activist later alleged that she had been brutally tortured in custody and sexually assaulted as well. She claimed that she had been made to strip, given electric shocks and had stones inserted into her vagina.
Sori, was later absolved in seven of the eight cases against her and was granted bail in the remaining case in 2014. In 2014, she was also given a ticket by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to contest the 2014 General Election from Bastar, which she lost to the BJP candidate from the region. She has been working with the women of Bastar and helping them come forward to report rape and sexual assaults allegedly inflicted upon them by the Maoists and the police.
“The law should be for our safety, not to protect the accused. Women are being stripped, beaten and molested but one asks the police how they dare touch our bodies.If the law is for all then it should be used against these police personnel who are doing these atrocities. Why does this happen again and again?” asked Sori.http://www.femina.in/achievers/soni-sori-we-want-justice-not-compromise-5228.html