*DEMAND IMMEDIATE ACTION ON PERPETRATORS OF CUSTODIAL VIOLENCE ON SONI SORI
* A team of women representing various women’s groups from across the country were in Raipur on 12-13th January to meet Ms. Soni Sori, currently lodged in Raipur Central Jail. Ms Sori is a tribal school teacher who has been hounded by the Chhattisgarh Police as a Maoist conduit. She was arrested in October 2011 and was brutally assaulted sexually in police custody on the night of 8-9th October.
Even after applying for permission as per procedure and repeated requests to various concerned officials on 12th, the women were denied permission to meet her, despite already having an assurance from the Principal Secretary, Mr. Baijendra Kumar, during his visit to Delhi in October.For two whole days the team was shuttled from one authority to the other and back, with each and every official avoiding taking a decision or give in writing any denial or reasons for it. Finally, permission was denied on 13th citing `security’ concerns. We feel that such alleged `security’ concerns are being used as a smokescreen to prevent us from meeting her, and this constitutes a violation of Soni’s rights as a prisoner. Further, we fail to understand what security threats an all women’s team, following all proper procedures and which consented to meet her in presence of the jail authorities, poses to the jail. Even the State Human Rights Commission, when approached by the team, refused to take cognizance of the matter, stating that denial of access to an undertrial does not constitute any violation of human rights of the undertrial.
The team expresses deep anguish and horror at the brutal physical and sexual torture she was subjected to when in police custody, which included giving her electric shocks, stripping her and inserting foreign objects into private parts. This torture was carried out under the supervision of a senior police official, despite directive from the Delhi High Court to the Chhattisgarh police to ensure her safety. The medical report of Kolkata NRS Medical College and Hospital, where stones were recovered from her private parts, confirms the brutal sexual assault.
We feel that Soni Sori`s case is of national importance and urgency for several reasons. Firstly, such barbaric behaviour by police had been foreseen even before Ms. Sori was taken into custody and had been clearly placed before the Sessions Court and High Court in Delhi, when her custody was sought by the Chhattisgarh police. While such custodial torture is a blatant violation and a matter of concern, *that it can happen despite judicial scrutiny and monitoring is deeply disturbing and of even greater concern.*
Secondly, this is one of the rare cases where the allegations have been substantiated by incontrovertible evidence in the form of an independent medical report conducted under the orders of the Supreme Court. Yet no action has been taken. Despite the seriousness of these violations, the Chhattisgarh authorities have not even instituted an enquiry, let alone taking action against the officials concerned. In addition, it is also preventing any attempts from independent women’s groups to meet with her.
Given the brutal treatment meted out to Soni Sori, and the overall situation of conflict and repression prevailing in Chhattisgarh, we are deeply concerned about the situation of women, in general, and specifically of other women prisoners in Chhattisgarh. Speaking in the larger context efforts to get information by human rights activists about under trails in such areas has unsuccessful. We demand immediate suspension of the officers concerned pending enquiry. Free access of individuals and groups to meet with Soni Sori and her rights as an under trail should be upheld.
The members of the team that visited Raipur consisted members from Saheli, Delhi; Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), Delhi; WSS Orissa and Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Bhopal.
Press note released on behalf of women’s groups all across the country. —