We, the people of India, a democratic republic which guarantees the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression including the right to protest against government policies that we think are inimical to our interests, are deeply worried and concerned about the manner in which these rights are being trammeled by the State in Bastar.
The acid attack of 20/02/2016 on Soni Sori, teacher and tribal rights activist , is the latest in a series of blatant attempts to silence voices of protest in Bastar. Whether it is acid or lubricant which has been thrown on her face, the fact is that it is an attempt to intimidate her into silence.
For her efforts to provide justice to the local peoples she has for long been the target of the State, especially the Bastar IG S.R.P. Kalluri who publicly targeted Soni and Linga and demanded a social boycott of them. Soniâ€™s attempts to register an FIR against him have met with no success till now. She had recently been actively demanding justice for Hidma, a local villager who had been killed by the police. One of threats given to her during the attack was for her not only to put an end to the demands in Hidmaâ€™s case but also to withdraw her complaints against Kalluri else her daughter might be attacked. It should be noted that Kalluri is the very same person who was behind the Tadmetla encounter in 2010, which is still being probed by the Judicial Commission and CBI.
In the past few months, lawyers of JAGLAG and journalists Malini Subramaniam and Bela Bhatia too have been subjected to numerous attempts to coerce them into leaving Bastar for the reason that they give voice to and defend those who are victims of State oppression.
Media reports suggest that in all these instances, the police authorities have either elected to take no action against the miscreants or have indirectly been party to their actions.
We protest against and condemn the systematic campaign to silence Soni Sori and others who oppose government policies and actions.
We demand that the police authorities in Dantewada immediately take action to identify and arrest those who have physically assaulted Soni Sori in order to silence her voice. We demand that immediate steps be taken to ensure the safety of Soni’s family, Bela and all the other people who have worked with her in this struggle.
We demand an immediate registration of an FIR against Kalluri for his continued intimidation as well as an independent Judicial Enquiry into the matter and that he be suspended and removed from a position of power till the conclusion of this enquiry.
We remind the government in Chhatisgarh that the whole nation is watching the action it takes against elements in the State machinery and outside who are party to these despicable attempts to suppress the voices that speak in support of the rights of the people and in opposition to policies and actions that promote not the interest of the people but corporate interests.