January 17, 2012

life in general: a severe example of nasty custodial torture in india

The last few months has seen a severe example of custodial torture in India. It is about a woman named Soni Sori who is alleged to be a Maoist (a banned outfit in India) by the Indian government. Whether she really is a Maoist is yet to be confirmed but what is reasonably clear is the unwarranted and, in fact, criminal, use of torture afflicted on Soni Sori by the Indian police acting under the instruction of the Indian state.

Below are three write-ups and one video that throw more light on the goings-on in this matter.

1) http://kractivist.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/womens-groups-stopped-from-meeting-soni-sori-in-raipur/



* A team of women representing various women’s groups from across the country were in Raipur on 12-13th January to meet Ms. Soni Sori, currently lodged in Raipur Central Jail. Ms Sori is a tribal school teacher who has been hounded by the Chhattisgarh Police as a Maoist conduit. She was arrested in October 2011 and was brutally assaulted sexually in police custody on the night of 8-9th October.
Even after applying for permission as per procedure and repeated requests to various concerned officials on 12th, the women were denied permission to meet her, despite already having an assurance from the Principal Secretary, Mr. Baijendra Kumar, during his visit to Delhi in October.For two whole days the team was shuttled from one authority to the other and back, with each and every official avoiding taking a decision or give in writing any denial or reasons for it. Finally, permission was denied on 13th citing `security’ concerns. We feel that such alleged `security’ concerns are being used as a smokescreen to prevent us from meeting her, and this constitutes a violation of Soni’s rights as a prisoner. Further, we fail to understand what security threats an all women’s team, following all proper procedures and which consented to meet her in presence of the jail authorities, poses to the jail. Even the State Human Rights Commission, when approached by the team, refused to take cognizance of the matter, stating that denial of access to an undertrial does not constitute any violation of human rights of the undertrial.
The team expresses deep anguish and horror at the brutal physical and sexual torture she was subjected to when in police custody, which included giving her electric shocks, stripping her and inserting foreign objects into private parts. This torture was carried out under the supervision of a senior police official, despite directive from the Delhi High Court to the Chhattisgarh police to ensure her safety. The medical report of Kolkata NRS Medical College and Hospital, where stones were recovered from her private parts, confirms the brutal sexual assault.
We feel that Soni Sori`s case is of national importance and urgency for several reasons. Firstly, such barbaric behaviour by police had been foreseen even before Ms. Sori was taken into custody and had been clearly placed before the Sessions Court and High Court in Delhi, when her custody was sought by the Chhattisgarh police. While such custodial torture is a blatant violation and a matter of concern, *that it can happen despite judicial scrutiny and monitoring is deeply disturbing and of even greater concern.*
Secondly, this is one of the rare cases where the allegations have been substantiated by incontrovertible evidence in the form of an independent medical report conducted under the orders of the Supreme Court. Yet no action has been taken. Despite the seriousness of these violations, the Chhattisgarh authorities have not even instituted an enquiry, let alone taking action against the officials concerned. In addition, it is also preventing any attempts from independent women’s groups to meet with her.
Given the brutal treatment meted out to Soni Sori, and the overall situation of conflict and repression prevailing in Chhattisgarh, we are deeply concerned about the situation of women, in general, and specifically of other women prisoners in Chhattisgarh. Speaking in the larger context efforts to get information by human rights activists about under trails in such areas has unsuccessful. We demand immediate suspension of the officers concerned pending enquiry. Free access of individuals and groups to meet with Soni Sori and her rights as an under trail should be upheld.
The members of the team that visited Raipur consisted members from Saheli, Delhi; Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), Delhi; WSS Orissa and Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Bhopal.

2)   http://www.sacw.net/article2445.html
9 December 2011
Soni Sori Case : our freedoms are at risk because people’s concerns receive a short shrift at the hands of the judiciary

Peoples Union for Democratic Rights is distressed at the hiatus between the sharp observations of the Supreme Court judges and their timid operative orders and judgments. If there was any doubt over this it has been laid to rest by the recent orders of the apex court hearing the case of Soni Sori and the clarification offered by a bench of the Supreme Court in the much touted judgment on the issue of SPOs.
After her arrest in Delhi, Soni Sori had pleaded before three judges of the Saket District Court when her transit remand was being heard, that were she to be handed over to the Chhattisgarh police, she would definitely be tortured. Indeed she had pointed to the judge at the Saket district court that one member of the police team which had come to take her in their remand and escort her to Chhattisgarh had tortured her on a previous occasion. Her pleas fell on deaf ears.
When her complaint of torture including sexual violence inflicted on her was submitted before the Supreme Court, the judges chose not to intervene. And now when the medical check-up ordered by the court by a Kolkata hospital has established that stones were recovered from her private parts, the veracity of her charge stands corroborated. Instead of taking cognition of this and immediately moving her to safety of a jail outside Chhattisgarh, the apex court on 2nd December 2011 gave the state authorities 45 days to respond to the medical report and meanwhile merely shifted her to Raipur jail from Jagdalpur jail in the same state.
Thus the very same delinquent police force, its personnel and associated authorities have got permission to incarcerate her for an inordinately long period, a period sufficient for the state government to threaten, brow-beat and destroy Soni Sori before its prepares its response. It appears that custodial rape and torture of a woman, adivasi at that, does not enjoy any premium as there is greater concern for the prestige of the state authorities engaged in the valiant game of prosecuting a war against its own people in the tribal belt of India. The order of the Supreme Court has also risked Soni Sori’s safety further by shifting her to Raipur jail as her travel to the Dantewada court now entails a journey of 22 hours. It threatens her already frail health, puts her in prolonged police custody during transit and provides the government an easy alibi to deny her access to the court altogether.
In the SPO case the apex court bench watered down, if not trivialized, its original order issued on 5 July 2011 which had directed the Central government to desist from providing any funds for supporting directly or indirectly recruitment of SPOs and engaging them in counter-insurgency activities and had declared that the appointment of SPOs as part of regular police as unconstitutional. Thus the deployment of SPOs anywhere including in J&K, North East, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal became illegal. By agreeing to remove reference to central government and by confining the judgment to Chhattisgarh alone and by maintaining scrupulous silence over how the Chhattisgarh state got around the restriction by raising a new force, the Supreme Court restored everything it had declared to be unconstitutional and thereby trivialised its own judgment and observations.
The only rationale for the issuing of such orders is that once ‘national security’ is invoked, the Courts, even the apex Court, fall in line behind the Executive. The most recent order on the deployment of SPOs and that regarding Soni Sori’s custodial torture show the Supreme Court in poor light and even more regrettably show it to be sacrificing people’s fundamental rights at the altar of “national security”.
For those of us who perceive the judiciary, at least its higher levels, as a protector of people’s interests there is salutary message: our freedoms are at risk because people’s concerns receive a short shrift at the hands of the judiciary as and when the executive invokes national security. Thus, radical observations and timid, if not trivial, operative orders must be condemned.
Harish Dhawan, Paramjeet Singh

3) http://www.binayaksen.net/2011/10/soni-sori-to-sc-sp-gave-electric-shocks-undressed-and-tortured-me/

  Despite a Delhi High Court directive to the Chhattisgarh police to ensure  the   safety of the jailed adivasi teacher who had apprehended custodial torture, Soni Sori has alleged that in clear violation of the Court’s order, the Dantewada SP gave her electric shocks, underdressed her and tortured her on the night of October 8. In a letter addressed to the Supreme Court, and received by a social activist in Delhi today, Sori has described the torture to which she was subjected by the Superintendent of Police, Ankit Garg, and has demanded to know who is responsible for her condition.
On the night of 8.10.2011, from 12 midnight to 2:30 am, SP Ankit Garg called me into a room in the police station, gave me electric shocks (current shock), took my clothes off and severely tortured me. Why has no action been taken against him? Sori has asked in the letter in Hindi, a scanned copy of which is attached herewith. Sori, whose case is currently being heard in Delhi, has written this letter on a small scrap of paper and asks the apex court five incisive questions.
Describing herself as a suffering adivasi women who is also a daughter and sister of this country, she asks the Court to tell her who is responsible for the brutal custodial torture to which she has been subjected by the police in Chhattisgarh. It may be recalled that Soni Sori had apprehended this physical torture when she was picked up by the police in Delhi, and had moved the Sessions court and the High Court in Delhi to oppose her remand to the custody of Chhattisgarh police. Keeping her fears in mind, the Saket Court in Delhi had awarded her custody to the Chhattisgarh police only upon receiving their assurance of her safety. The Delhi High Court also asked the Chhattisgarh police to submit a report listing out steps to ensure Soni’s safety.
However, as Soni points out in this recent letter, despite these safeguards and the assurance given to her by the Saket Court, she was tortured brutally, both mentally and physically, by the Chhattisgarh police. Why did the police do this to me, why was this allowed to happen? Soni asks the Supreme Court in this letter. Describing her police harassment over the past year and a half, she writes about how the police kept showing her as an absconder in half a dozen cases, even though she was meeting with them, going to the police station and regularly attending her job as an ashram school teacher, as evidenced by the entries of the school attendance register. Why did the police not arrest me at that time? asks Soni in this letter. Referring to the most recent case, in which the police alleges that Soni has acted as an intermediary between Essar and the Naxalites, she claims that she was asked by a police constable Mankar to flee from the place, which has made her into a criminal.
In the letter, Soni asks the apex court why no action has been taken against the erring police constable. Soni also refers to the fact that she was kept chained to her hospital bed when she was undergoing treatment for her injuries due to custodial torture in the Raipur hospital,which is explicitly prohibited under Supreme Court orders. At the end of the short letter which lists these five questions, Soni plaintively asks the court, Who is responsible for my condition? The Chhattisgarh government or the police administration? Soni affirms in the letter that she is still on hunger strike since she has still not obtained justice. Social activist Himanshu Kumar says that this letter will be delivered to the Supreme Court once it reopens on Monday and notes,These questions which Soni is raising are important not only for her, but for all of us in this country. We must be prepared to face these questions and ensure that our democracy is strong enough to answer them.
For more information contact: Himanshu Kumar ph: 9013886571 email: vcadantewada@ gmail.com
Letter for the Supreme Court
1. Why are my feet chained?
2. Mankar constable is the culprit in the Essar case. He made me into a criminal by asking me to abscond. Why is there no action taken against him on this?
3. For a year and a half, the police have been harassing me by lodging false cases against me. I used to openly come and go in front of the police force. I was called at the police station many times, and I used to go there. Why did they not arrest me at that time? For no reason, they declared me as an absconder, even though I was regularly doing my service at the ashram school at that time.
4. I was brought here from the Saket Court in Delhi by promising that there would be no physical or mental torture, and I believed this to be the order of the court and came here. Then why did the police do this to me (torture me), why was this allowed to happen?
5. On the night of 8.10.2011, from 12 midnight to 2:30 am, SP Ankit Garg called me into a room in the police station, gave me electric shocks (current shock), took my clothes off and severely tortured me. Why has no action been taken against him? Today, who bears the responsibility for my condition? The government of Chhattisgarh or the police administration? I am a suffering adivasi woman and I want to the Supreme Court to answer my question. I am also a daughter and sister of this country. Why did this happen to me? This is why I have not yet broken my hunger strike.
Applicant Mrs. Soni Sori Central Jail, Jagdalpur

4) Video

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