Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) welcomes the Supreme Court order of 12th November, granting interim bail to Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi of Dantewada, who were arrested in October 2011 and have been incarcerated since then in Chhattisgarh on fabricated charges. Although a temporary reprieve, we hope that this interim bail will be converted into a regular bail in the next Supreme Court hearing on the matter on 3rd December.
Soni Sori Palnar visiting her family at her village Palnar on 14th Nov 2013
On 26th January last year, IPS officer Ankit Garg who was charged with sexual assault of Soni Sori, was conferred the President’s Police Medal of Gallantry. Conferring this award amounts not only to condoning the sexual torture inflicted on Ms Sori and the violence which is being perpetrated in the name of anti-Naxal operations, but actually encouraging it. Today, when the nation’s conscience is stirred by heinous sexual crimes committed against women and the government is promising zero tolerance for sexual crimes, what signal does a gallantry award to Ankit Garg give? At best it means that even the President’s office does not take too seriously the complaint of sexual assault of an adivasi woman, even after it has been independently verified by some of the nation’s best medical practitioners. At worst, it signifies that some sexual assaults are not only tolerated by the government, but also decorated.
A year on, the campaign to withdraw the medal continues. Below is a letter to the President of India, demanding for its withdrawal together with a signature campaign. Read on and join in!
The National Commission on Women (NCW) is mandated to ‘investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws’, ‘ and ‘take suo moto notice of matters relating to deprivation of women’s rights’. Soni Sori turned to them for support. As early as 10th October, 2011, several women’s groups and activists too, called upon the NCW to take action in Soni’s case. Many visits and appeals later, it became clear that their pleas were falling upon deaf ears.
On the 10th of October, 2012, around a hundred women and student activists stormed the NCW office on Delhi’s Deen Dayal Upadhayay Marg, protesting against its year-long inaction.
Video of the protest by women’s groups and activists as they storm the NCW office, demanding action
The Justice Verma Commission constituted in the wake of the Delhi gang-rape to provide recommendations to the government for amending existing laws for ensuring speedier trials and enhanced punishment in cases of crimes against women, has interpreted its terms of reference widely to include connected areas such as gender justice, respect towards womanhood, and ancillary matters. In response to the Commission’s call to the public for suggestions, WSS has submitted the following recommendations which can be accessed as a pdf or in the following post.
WSS notes with concern that the entire public debate arising out of the recent Delhi gang rape incident has centered round the issues of “enacting a strong law” and “prescribing harsher sentence.” It has failed to recognize more basic issues – the enormous social obstacles encountered in registering complaints, in the conduct of thorough investigation, in the protection of witnesses, in fast and efficacious prosecution and in unbiased adjudication – in other words, the issues of implementation of the law, and the functioning of the police and judicial machinery – which necessarily precede sentencing. The debate has also largely failed to take into account the deeply patriarchal character of our social institutions, and law enforcement machinery which render women vulnerable to violence in the family, in the larger community, in their work places and public places. Continue reading
Responding to the call for action, people from around the country have raised their voices against police torture and sent postcards to Soni Sori, expressing their solidarity with her in her brave fight for justice.
Over the past year, Soni’s fight has become a symbol for thousands of mistreated women prisoners around the country. With over 1500 postcards sent, support for her cause is growing … Let us remind ourselves that Soni Sori is not the first, and certainly not the last, innocent adivasi woman to be falsely accused and tortured. It is therefore time for us to stand up against torture, sexual violence and state repression!
Today afternoon, activists from women’s groups and several peoples’ organisations stormed the National Commission for Women (NCW), protesting against the continued inaction for an year in the Soni Sori case. It has been one year since the arrest of 36-year old Soni Sori, an adivasi school warden from Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, and her custodial at the behest of the then SP of Dantewada, Ankit Garg. Soni Sori’s right to life and dignity have been violated by various jail and police authorities several times over – from foisting false cases against her, sexually torturing and humiliating her in the police station, denying her medical attention, and most recently, humiliating her by publicly stripping her in prison in the name of conducting physical search. It is also one year since women’s groups first met the NCW to seek their intervention.e
Since the first meeting last year, these organizations have approached the NCW on several occasions to take steps against Soni Sori’s custodial torture and continuing ill treatment. Every single instance of illegality by police and jail authorities was brought to the attention of the NCW. Soni Sori herself wrote to the NCW seeking their help. But all this has fallen on deaf ears.