A legacy of anti-nationalism: Dr. Ilina Sen speaks on Soni Sori

DSC_0015Dr. Ilina Sen, well known human rights activist in Chattisgarh talked about the history of oppression in Chattisgarh by the sinister nexus between the state and industrialists of which people like Soni Sori and Lingaram become preys, at TISS, Mumbai today. Dr. Binayak Sen, her husband who is National Vice-President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and General Secretary of its Chhattisgarh unit was also arrested on the charges of sedition in 2010 on no evidence and later grantd bail by the Supreme Court in March,2011.
Ilina Sen talked about how since 2005, Bastar and other districts of South Chhattisgarh have faced brutal attacks against people and resources by State-sponsored vigilante group ‘Salwa Judum’, which was subsequently declared illegal by the Supreme Court. This, and the wooing of corporate finance capital by the State of Chhattisgarh has resulted in an inexpressible misery of people as well as blatant militarisation to crush people’s resistance. Civil society voices that have emerged have been systematically muffled through legal and other means over the past one decade. The intimidation and physical attack on Malini Subramniam, who was documenting fake encounters and sexual violence against tribal women for scroll.in, and her family has forced them to leave Jagdalpur. Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal of Jagdalpur Legal Aid Centre who have been providing legal aid to tribals languishing in jails for years are also being hounded. Soni Sori, a charismatic figure having braved jail and torture herself, took up the cause of other tribals facing similar State-sponsored atrocities and stood up with them in their struggle for justice. When several threats to her life did not hamper her work, Sori was physically assaulted with chemicals thrown on her face on February 20, 2016.
Ilina Sen believes these attacks in Chhattisgarh, coming at this particular point of time, are especially sinister because of the State clampdown on dissenting voices, whether on students of FTII resisting the takeover of their institute by right-wing forces, or the JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar who is jailed on baseless charges of sedition, a law that has no place in the statute books of a modern democracy. Hyderabad Central University’s hounding of dalit students leading to the suicide of Rohith Vemula is only an example of how far the rulers of the country will go to suppress the democratic rights of students! All these are indicative of a State which will go to any length to suppress people’s rights to which our Constitution is committed to – the rights of freedom of speech and expression, organization and struggle, all in order to carry out the State’s own agenda. The rulers have gone to great length to carry out its anti-people policies and for that they will resorted to various divisive means such as caste, religion, region, etc.