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Sticks, Stones and Bones: Torture most foul of Soni Sori

By Umang Kumar

When I first heard of it, I did not believe it. Who does such things, I thought? And to a helpless woman, a teacher, a mother of three, at that? Several Hindi-Urdu words swirled in my head: kroorta (cruelty), barbarta (barbarism), jaahiliyat (also, barbarism). But when the medical report from Kolkata confirmed that “certain ‘foreign objects’” had been removed from Soni Sori’s private parts, the conjectures of wilful cruelty took shape. The bestiality and the depraved nature of the act became palpable. It was about stones, it was about bones, it was about hurt, it was about pain, it was about brutal and inhuman vengeance. Against a helpless woman in captivity. Ah, brave men of our security establishment who can so exercise their prowess over the weak and helpless. What sense of avenging they must feel, what sense of righteousness at the indignity they could inflict on a poor woman!

But I write because the outrage over the punishment meted out to Soni Sori has been limited to few quarters. The press seems to have largely ignored the import of the findings of the medical report, especially with the Supreme Court having given the Chattisgarh government about two months, till Jan 23 2012 to get back on the findings of the report. The court was reportedly “anguished” by the report. I am sure it was. Anguish is just about the right emotion, I guess. However, quickly putting aside the anguish, it seems, it demonstrated extravagant understanding for the party on which the burden of the proof lies. It vouchsafed them enough time so they have a restful winter break, a joyous and extended new year celebration and a relaxed start to 2012 to eventually come back with some sort of response by the third week of January 2012. Really, where is the hurry? A poor and helpless tribal woman had some “foreign objects” taken out from her private parts; yes, there must have been a violation of the basest kind; yes, it must have caused the acutest of pain; yes, it must have been some form of torture; but justice is a slow turtle. Pains and aches and hurts can wait. Stones may have been inserted, but it is important that government machinery get enough time to go about its ways, everything through proper channel…

Soni had earlier suffered injuries when she was transferred to a hospital in Dantewada, Chattisgarh soon after her arrest in Delhi allegedly for being a Maoist go-between. Her injuries were confirmed by the district hospital in Dantewada as “contusions on the right side of her head in the occipito pareital region…and tenderness in the lumbar region of the back.” The Chattisgarh police explained these as having been sustained from a fall in a bathroom.

I try thinking what it must have been like to be so abused by the police, a helpless woman at that, but my mind shuts down; it does not want to imagine the horror which was visited upon Soni Sori, especially in the most recent case. It does not want to think of the crudeness of it all. The crude security personnel maybe masked to conceal their identity. Laughing demoniacally perhaps. Undressing her. Laughing all the time. And then the stones. Where did they get the stones from? And they deliberately chose the right sizes? How did they begin inserting them in her private parts? Did Soni scream, or did she bite-down the unbearable pain? And there must have been more laughing, more we’ll-teach-you-a-lesson-you-bitch gaalis…maybe she just passed out from the pain.

What explains this sort of treatment at all? Why was this not national news, causing everybody in the country to sit up in anguish and horror and taking to the streets? Why did the Supreme Court not demand immediate explanation from the Chattisgarh government? Was the story of Soni’s abuse not incriminating enough, was the crime against her not vile enough to seek answers and apply justice right away? How much more abhorrent must a crime be for it to prompt an outrage? Or, maybe to put the question another way, what sort of impunity cloaks the powerful that they can hold justice in abeyance, almost at their will, almost on their terms? Or even, how insensitive and powerless have we all become?

I am sure Soni knows full-well that justice cannot feel no anguish. To her, justice must seem cold and hard and inert like stone itself. And immensely hurtful.

Umang Kumar is an activist with the Free Binayak Sen campaign.