News Story

WHAT gives rise to Naxalism?

by Vaidehi Sachin

soni_sori.jpg"Three months ago, an adivasi (tribal) woman called a correspondent from Dantewada and said, "Sir, Dantewada SSP Kalluri is threatening me that if I don't handover my nephew to him, they(meaning the police) would destroy my life and livelihood." And now three months later, she complains, "Sir, you did not do anything? Why has the police imprisoned my husband, and has registered 2 FIRS against me, of which one accuses me of attacking a police station, and the other of being complicit with the naxalites in attacking the house of Rajput Congress leader Avadhesh Gautam"
This is a story of a tribal teacher of Dantewadi. She is a mother of three small children. She is Social worker and reformer who thought of making a difference to tribal lives. She is accused of attacking a police station and a Congress leader. Thin, dark and lost this woman is none other than Soni Soori, who is at present in hospital for being brutally beaten up by police. 12 years ago, Soni Sori was a 12th grade student. Padma-shree Dharmapal Saini, a disciple of Vinoba Bhave, runs educational institutions in Bastar. Her uncle Nanda Ram Sori was a CPI (Communist Party of India) MLA from Bastar at the time. In the previous year in the month of October, she came to this writer again and said that police had picked up her nephew and was pressuring him to become an SPO, that they had hidden him in the toilet of the Dantewada police station, and that they constantly beat him. 
The Supreme Court sought the Chhattisgarh government's response to an allegation that tribal teacher and suspected Maoist activist Soni Sori "was dying" in a state hospital due to torture by the police. A bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and H L Gokhale asked Chhattisgarh's standing counsel Atul Jha to seek necessary instructions and information from the state government on the allegations and the report. Sori's counsel says she is dying. The apex court passed the direction after senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Sori, alleged that the tribal woman was on the verge of death due to police torture in custody after her arrest from Delhi last week. He said Sori, in fact, had filed her petition to the apex court prior to arrest but before the matter could be taken up for hearing by the court, she was arrested and subjected to physical torture in Chhattisgarh. He claimed the woman was falsely implicated in a number of cases linking her to Maoist activities. A suspected Maoist conduit and accused of receiving "protection money" from the Essar group for rebels, Sori was arrested on October 4 in south Delhi by a Chhattisgarh police team and was taken to Dantewada for interrogation. Essar has denied giving funds to Maoists.
Soni Sodi claims she has been falsely implicated in a number of cases linking her to Naxal activities. She has filed a petition in the Supreme Court claiming that she is being tortured by the Chhattisgarh Police. (Read: A reporter's account of Soni Sodi, arrested for being a 'hard-core Naxal') She has alleged that she was being treated like a thief and a dacoit by the police. 
Earlier this month, the top court had sought response from the state government to the allegation that Sodi "was dying" in a state hospital due to torture by the police. She was recently shifted to the Bhimrao Ambedkar Hospital in Raipur after doctors reported that her condition had worsened. 
In the other side West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's deadline to Maoists to cease fire came to an end. Last week she said ''I don't want trouble in Junglemahal. So I am giving you seven days.'' But so far the Maoists seem in no mood to come forward for talks. Instead, on Tuesday, they engaged security forces in a gun battle. And adding fuel to the fire writer and esteemed tribal rights activist and writer Mahasweta Devi joined the Maoist chorus for the withdrawal of the armed forces from the Maoist affected areas of the state. With already existing tension in the state, it was no surprise that state appointed interlocutors appointed to talk to the Maoists came away with little result. Though Sujato Bhadra, one of the interlocutors has stressed: "The dialogue is on and will continue," talks seem to be making little headway. The state government has asked the Centre for two additional battalions of paramilitary forces, clearly signalling that it is reaching the end of its patience, and a showdown could be on the cards soon. But in all this political mess, even Mamata has no time to look at Soni.
Soni was advised to file a Habeas Corpus petition in the High court immediately. On Soni's advice, Linga's elder brother Masaram Kopodi filed an application in the Chhattisgarh High Court requesting that Lingaram Kopodi be produced before the court. Police defended its actions by telling the court that Linga was not coerced and that he had voluntarily decided to become an SPO. The Court ordered that Linga be produced before the court, who told the bench that he did not want to become an SPO and that he wanted to return home. The Court then ordered that Linga be immediately released and be allowed to return home. On the way, Lingaram realised that police would not allow him to reach home safely, because during his confinement, DIG Kalluri and SP Amaresh Mishra had warned him and his family that even if they managed to free Linga through petitions in the court, the police would shoot him dead, later claiming that Linga was killed in an encounter. Remembering this threat, midway through his journey, Linga got off the car that was taking him home, and decided to stay at a friend's place instead. Meanwhile, police had imposed a blockade and were waiting expectantly on the way to arrest him again. When they realised that Linga had outmaneuvered them, Kalluri and Mishra were aghast. In order to find Linga's whereabouts, they kidnapped Linga's elder brother Masaram Kodopi.
When Linga came to know about these shenanigans of the police, he came for advice, somehow managing to escape police's ubiquitous presence. Immediately a fax petition was sent to the court intimating that police had abducted the original petitioner Masaram Kodopi himself. After receiving the fax the next day, the High Court reprimanded the police, and consequently they released Masaram after 2 days of custody. However, the police were not about to give up. They attacked his village at night in order to kill Lingaram. Since Linga already feared such an attack, he had enough foresight not to sleep at home, but in the ruins nearby. The police looked for him in every house of the village, and when they could not find him, they picked up his elderly father and five other adults from the village. With frustration of a hunted animal, he intoned, "Alright, if the Government wants to kill me, then I might as well join the naxalites". ...This is exactly what the Government wantsthat the adivasi youth pick up guns, because this gives the Government an excellent pretext to kill them with impunity. 
Again a petition was sent to the President, the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister, the National Human Rights Commission, the DGP and the SP. The police released Linga's father after one week. The other five were released after a month, partly due to the constant efforts of Soni Sori. Meanwhile several policemen would constantly go to the village looking for Linga in order to kill him, although he had committed no crime, and he was under protection by court orders. But the Chhattisgarh police and Government have complete contempt for the judicial process. Meanwhile Soni Sori and her husband Anil met with SSP Amaresh Mishra and DIG Kalluri, who told them that since Linga has dishonored the police in court, they have the freedom to shoot to kill him with impunity.
Chhattisgarh police were quite disconcerted when they discovered that Linga was now studying journalism, since Linga was a witness to the various atrocities the police had committed over the years, and he could become their nemesis after becoming a journalist. Vishwaranjan and Kalluri immediately issued a statement during a press conference, claiming that Lingaram Kodopi was a dreaded naxalite leader, and after the death of Azad, the Maoists have elected him to be their spokesperson, that Linga was sent to the USA for training in Naxalism, and that he was in touch with Arundhati Roy, Medha Patkar, Himanshu Kumar and Nandini Sundar. After this statement from the police, Swami Agnivesh held a press conference in Delhi and said that Lingaram Kodopi is an innocent adivasi youth studying journalism in Delhi, and challenged the Chhattis-garh police to provide evidence for their insidious insinuations. Chhattisgarh Police then offered a public apology and Vishwaranjan issued a statement acknowledging that the police had made a mistake issuing their last statement about Linga. But police have not yet given up conspiring to nab Linga. They have concocted a false report against Linga's aunt Soni and her husband Anil who has been in prison for the past three months. The police have also issued a warrant against Soni. Notwithstanding the warrant against her, Soni went and pleaded with SSP Kalluri a few times, but he told her that the only way her husband was going to be released was if she handed over Linga to the police. Soni is principal of a Government school, and goes to school every day. Nevertheless the police have declared her a fugitive from law, so that they can kill this adivasi woman any time they want. Will someone rescue this innocent woman?
Where are the much heralded media stalwarts of this country?
Where is the patriotic BJP? 
And where is the self-appointed soldier of adivasis, Rahul Gandhi?