Tribal activist Soni Sori back in full swing in Bastar

Back in action:Soni Sori

Back in action:Soni Sori

In 2011, the police charged her with having links with Maoists and put her in jail, where she was allegedly subjected to inhuman torture, but after her release in 2013, she emerged as the face of tribal protest in the restive Bastar region of Chhattisgarh.

She was going strong and was giving nightmares to senior political leaders, police officers and the state establishment of Chhattisgarh when she was again attacked in February this year with an “acid-like substance”. Her family was threatened and she was told that her young daughters would meet the same fate.

“I cannot sit silent and turn a blind eye”

But tribal activist and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Soni Sori is again back on the ground in Bastar, leading protests against alleged police excesses and atrocities on local tribals. When asked if the recent attack scared her, the fearless tribal activist said, “There is no fear. I tried to keep myself away (from public life) but I am not able to. I cannot sit silent and turn a blind eye to what is happening in Bastar. I am happy to participate in the people’s protests.”

However, situation has changed after the attack on her. The outspoken critic of Bastar police now has two policemen guarding her clockwise.

“Was reluctant to take security cover”

“I was reluctant to take the security cover, but I decided to take it when my detractors started propaganda that I was avoiding police security to meet Maoist leaders,” said the 41-year-old mother of three kids.

“I am moving around freely and the security men are sympathetic to my work and the cause I fight for. But I have not yet recovered from the injuries I suffered during February attack. I keep getting burning and itching sensation on my face and at times it swells,” said the AAP leader who recently led a protest in front of Gadiras police station in Sukma district of Bastar against illegal detention of her associates and other tribal men.

When asked about the threats she and her family received at the time of attack on her, she said the threats had stopped.

“Now the villagers are being threatened against participating in my rallies and protests. My family has been a big support for me. They understand the importance of my work and have lent me complete backing. My party has also stood strongly behind me. Without my party’s backing, the establishment would have killed me,” she said.

On the situation in Bastar, Ms. Sori said, “The crackdown on human rights activists, journalists and lawyers is still on. Every day people are being jailed, tortured and killed in encounters in Bastar. The entire crackdown on me and other progressive forces is to make sure that the real picture of Bastar is not presented to the world outside.”

“Surprise and shock”

The tribal leader expressed “surprise and shock” over the “inaction” of communist leaders in Bastar and claimed that she would bring back the Jagdalpur Legal Aid group (a group of women lawyers who fought Bastar tribal’s cases for free) which was evicted out of Bastar earlier this year.

“They (the lawyers) will stay at my home if needed. They were evicted out of Bastar by pressuring their landlord. Let’s see who dares to evict them this time. I will give them my place. As long as I am alive, I will do everything which is needed to be done for the betterment of Bastar tribals,” she said.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 10:12:23 pm |