Sunday, February 21, 2016

Chhattisgarh woman tribal leader Soni Sori attacked with acid-like oil after she "received" threat to life

By Our Representative
Soni Sori, widely recognized as the face of tribal people’s struggle in Chhattisgarh, has been attacked by acid-like black chemical, thrown on her face by unidentified persons in the state’s Bastar region. She reported an intense burning sensation to her colleagues, and was taken to a hospital in Jagdalpur town.
Police officials have been quoted as saying that the attack took place near Jawanga village under Geedam police station in Dantewada district at around 10:40 pm on Saturday, when she and two associates were heading towards Geedam from Jagdalpur on a motorcycle.
India Resists, an online human rights portal, which first flashed the news on Saturday late night about the attack on Sori, said, she had been “receiving several threats for her continued work to affirm the rights of the adivasis”, adding, “In the last few months she has been hounded by angry mobs, had her house vandalised and even issued death threats.” 
On Friday, one day before the attack, the report said, “The police arrived reached up to up her claiming the title to her house was defective, asking her to vacate, despite the fact that no house in the area has been issued a patta by the state.”
The portal added, “It is not a coincidence that the physical attack on her comes at the heels of the forced eviction of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid group, which left Jagdalpur a few hours earlier.”
Reports said, Sori were stopped by three youths on a motorcycle, who stopped them after crossing Bastanar Ghat and forcing them to alight from their vehicle. Sori is an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader.
AAP leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has called the incident “very painful”, wondering, “What’s happening everywhere? Hope she recovers fast.” He has asked the Chhattisgarh government to act fast nab the culprits “immediately.”
Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Samvad, AAP breakaway group, has termed the attack as “alarming”, adding “Soni Sori has been apprehending this attack. Will Union home minister Rajnath Singh show half the concern he had about Jawaharlal Nehru University?”
Government doctors, who examined her, have been quoted as saying that she might have been attacked with some substance mixed with chemicals, which has caused a reaction and swelling on her face. But her condition has been described as stable. Her family members told journalists she was in excruciating pain.
AAP state chief said Sanket Thakur said, “The attack took place when Sori was travelling on a motorcycle with a colleague. Ten km short of Geedam town, where she lives, three men on a motorcycle overtook and stopped them. They threw the oil paint on Sori's face and fled. She was rushed to Jagdalpur, the largest town of the region, 100 km away.”
For nearly two years, Sori has been leading adivasi protests against fake encounters and sexual violence, allegedly being committed by forces claiming to fight Maoism in the Naxalite-affected region. She had travelled to Jagdalpur to meet human the rights lawyers of the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, who have been forced to leave the town reportedly because of police intimidation.
Earlier in the week, scroll.in contributor Malini Subramaniam was forced to leave Jagdalpur under similar circumstances. Sori, who has received death threats for taking up adivasi women’s cause, was also asked to vacate her house reportedly by local authorities.
Well-known human rights organization Greenpeace India’s Priya Pillai, reporting on the attack, said when she requested the district collector, Bastar, to “ensure her safety” the reply she received was, "Don't give gyan… What else should I have expected from Bastar?” She added, “What is happening is Chattisgarh is inhuman. It is an emergency like situation.”
Sori was reportedly tortured in custody in 2011. Top writer Arundhati Roy told media August last year how the policeman who supervised Sori's torture — which included, among other things, pushing stones up her vagina — in police custody, "was awarded a Police Gallantry Award by the President of India, on Republic Day in 2012."

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