By Gayatri Prakash:
This is a story of an Indian. Today it’s her, tomorrow it could be you. Soni Sori, a 35 year old adivasi schoolteacher and a Dantewada resident didn’t know that her life could go from bad to worse. Her father is bedridden from past 15 years as a result of Maoist shooting and her husband was jailed for being involved with Naxalites. She herself had 5 Maoist related cases tied on her shoulders.
A quick recap to the story-an essar contractor called B. K. Lala was caught red handed in Dantewada market supplying Rs.15 lakhs as protection money to a Maoist ‘operative’ called Lingaram Kodopi, an SPO and journalist. Both Linga and Lala were arrested whereas the alleged Naxalite associate Soni Sori escaped. Apparently on 8th September, a day before this incident, Sori was asked to convince her nephew Linga to pose as a Maoist in order to nab Lala and then to hand over the money to police by Mankar a constable of Kirandul police station. Sori angrily refused to this and that night her nephew was forcibly taken from her house by few men. The next morning Linga was a Maoist operative and Sori an absconder. Fearing for her life, she fled to New Delhi for assistance but she was eventually arrested from there and taken back to Chhatisgarh police station for interrogation. Here, Sori who was not even healthy enough to go to the courtroom to give her statement was brutally tortured. Under the bleak promise of safety and protection she was tortured and sexually harassed. She had deep concussions on her head as if some heavy object had hit her. She was stripped and given electric shocks. She complained of aches, pains and injuries.
This is not the end of the story. She was denied treatment at AIMS hospital Chhatisgarh because the time allotted to admit patients was over and it was after the interference of NHRC that she was admitted in the hospital. Here two main atrocities are brought in limelight- custodial torture and the politically prepared moves of hospitals. Both from the most trusted organizations in India. Custodial injuries and deaths exist from a very long time. Numerous cases get registered. Some get lucky and some get punished.
Asian Center for Human Rights in its report of torture in India 2009 revealed that the highest number of custodial deaths was reported in Maharashtra with 192 cases, then Uttar Pradesh with 128 cases, Gujarat 113 cases, Andhra Pradesh 85 cases, West Bengal 83 cases, Tamil Nadu 76 cases, Assam 74 cases, Karnataka 55 cases, Punjab 41 cases, Madhya Pradesh with 38 cases, Bihar and Rajasthan with 32 cases each, Haryana with 31 cases, Kerala 30 cases, Jharkhand 29 cases, Delhi 25 cases, Orissa 24 cases, Chhatisgarh 23 cases, Uttarakhand and Meghalaya 16 cases each, Arunachal Pradesh with 11 cases, Jammu and Kashmir and Tripura with 9 cases each, Puducherry and Chandigarh with 2 cases each and Goa, Sikkim, Dadra and Nagar Haveli with one case each. This was what was recorded but according to ACHR, most of the cases are not recorded and kept are kept in eternal darkness.
The prevention of torture bill is also a sham as the definition of torture and the punishment, all is comprised in three paragraphs. The punishments mentioned in convention against torture are much more lenient than the ones mentioned by court for such crimes in general. While men have it bad, women are certainly in for worse. In name of interrogation, women are tortured without any limits or shame. They are raped. Sexually exploited and are subjected to the most menial treatment. Soni Sori’s cases came into public eye by luck and because she is literate, but many Soni Soris never see the light of the day. Certainly the government should take serious steps in improving the living conditions of prison inmates and also the conditions for the citizens who are taken in for interrogation. Supreme court should penalize and punish the officials who indulge in custodial tortures and correct the judiciary and the administrative. Every Indian citizen surely hopes for Soni Suri s truth to be out to the world so that the culprits can be punished. Let her be successful in her endeavors
Need of the hour is to remove malpractices in Indian judicial body as well as police forces because if the ones who are supposed to safeguard the citizens are the ones to blame, then India is surely on the path of doom.