Hyderabad, February 21(Maxim News): … people spontaneously gathered to protest the attack upon adivasi activist Soni Sori, as well as to condemn the rapes of adivasi women and fake encounters that Soni Sori had been protesting relentlessly, here on Sunday at Tankbund.
Present were representatives of Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, Sandhya from Progressive Organisation of Women, feminist activists Sajaya and Vanaja, Prof. Laxman, Suresh, Raju and Narayana of Civil Liberties Committee, Prof. Padmaja Shaw, Prof. Harjinder Singh (Laltu), Prof. K.Y. Ratnam, Prof. G. Vijay of Democratic Teachers Network, and several teachers and students of University of Hyderabad and EFLU Soni Sori, local adivasi leader and the Aam Aadmi Party coordinator for Bastar Division, was attacked by three goons on her way home on the 20th of February in Geedam at 11 pm.
Soni Sori has communicated that the attackers threw a chemical substance on her face and threatened her saying *”stop complaining against the IG, stop raising the issue of Mardum. If you don’t behave yourself, we will do this to your daughter as well.” *She was also warned against attempting to file an FIR against the IG of police again.
The attack on Soni Sori is part of a larger campaign of State violence in Bastar; Under the guise of anti-Naxal operations, the security forces are indulging in rape and plunder. Teams of women activists have documented three cases of mass sexual violence in the past three months, where security forces have entered villages in Sukma and Bijapur- stripping women, conducting gangrapes, looting their food supplies, and destroying their homes and granaries. The number of “encounters” is increasing, people are “disappearing” from villages, only to show up in the list of “surrendered” or “arrested” Naxalites several days later as press clippings and testimonies recount. The local police and administration are talking in one voice of “clearing” the area within one year.
Most recently, Soni attempted to file an FIR against the IG (Bastar) SRP Kalluri for instigating people to boycott and physically harm her. She had also raised the incident of the fake encounter of Hidme in the Mardum thana in Bastar District. Soni had organised a press conference in Raipur with the villagers and was trying to file a FIR regarding the case. While the police claim that Hidma was a high-ranking Naxalite (*”1 lakh ka inami naxali”*) killed after a fierce encounter in the jungles, the villagers claim that Hidma was an ordinary villager, picked up by the police at night from his house. His wife and elder daughter are eyewitnesses and the wife recalls the name of the police officer who had come to the house.
Soni has been working with fellow adivasis in responding to human rights violations by state athourities in the form of random arrests and unlawful detention, fake encounters, assaults on women etc. But people’s rallies and meetings have been stopped, villagers have not been allowed to register complaints and regular threats have been made against Soni Sori. In a recent incident, the Nagar Panchayat of Geedam reached Soni’s house and questioned her with regard to the title of her house and indirectly threatened to break it down as an encroachment. About ten days earlier, parchas were thrown into her house calling her a *randi* and a Maoist. She has been warned against entering Bijapur, where a spate of sexual violence by security forces has taken place.
The attack and threats on Soni have taken place along with the hounding of other women journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders in Chhattisgarh.
These include, *Malini Subramanium*, an independent journalist, reporting on issues in Chhattisgarh including the closing down of schools, women and children, brutal violence by security forces against the adivasis, fake encounters and surrenders in the Bastar. The domestic worker in Malini’s house was called and kept in the police station till late at night to terrorize her into implicating the journalist of being Naxalite. Her landlord was similarly threatened by the police into asking her to vacate the house. Malini, fearing for the safety of those who have always stood by her, left Jagdalpur on 19th February.