A team of activists from 40 gender and human rights organisations around the country has accused the Chhattisgarh government, police and prison authorities of conspiring to cover up an instance of custodial torture.
The team was in town to meet Soni Sori, a 36-year-old schoolteacher now imprisoned in the Raipur Central Jail on charges of serving as a courier between the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) and Essar Group, a multinational corporation with mining assets in rebel-controlled territories.
Ms. Soni, Maoists and Essar have all denied the charges.
In a series of petitions filed before the Delhi High Court, the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women, Ms. Soni's lawyers alleged that she was tortured in police custody.
In a medical report submitted in the High Court, doctors said they found two stones inserted in Ms. Soni's genital tract and another in her rectum.
In a letter smuggled out of the prison and addressed to the Supreme Court, Ms. Soni said she was stripped and electrocuted in the course of a police interrogation.
“We came to visit Soni Sori on the invitation of N. Bajinder Kumar, principal secretary to the Chief Minister,” said Nidhi Aggarwal of Saheli Women's Resource Centre. “We met him in Delhi last year, where he assured us that Soni Sori was safe and told us we were welcome to come and see for ourselves.” On their arrival in Chhattisgarh however, the team was not allowed to meet Ms. Sori due to “security considerations.”
In a written reply to the team's request to meet Ms. Sori, the Superintendent of Jails noted, “Soni Sori has already met with her lawyer …considering the security of the jail and of Sori…it is not appropriate for more than three persons to enter the jail.”
“We feel that such alleged security concerns are being used as a smokescreen to prevent us from meeting her, and constitutes a violation of Ms. Sori's rights as a prisoner,” read a press release issued by the group.