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Open letter to the Prime Minister, the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister regarding Soni Sori’s health

Sunday 29th April 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Citizens appeal to PM, CM: Save Soni Sori from death in jail

In an open letter addressed to the Prime Minister of India and other officials, about 250 concerned activists, academics, intellectuals, students, professionals and democratic organisations have demanded immediate medical attention for the Adivasi school teacher, Soni Sori, 35, currently in custody in Raipur Central Jail, Chhattisgarh. Sori’s condition is believed to be rapidly deteriorating as a result of torture and sexual abuse at the hands of the Chhattisgarh police. She is the mother of three young children. Signatories to the letter include members of the National Advisory Council Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy, writers Arundhati Roy and Meena Kandasamy, respected economist Jean Dreze, Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan and renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky.

Soni Sori was arrested in Delhi on 4th October, 2011, where she had gone to seek legal assistance, fearing for her life after repeated harassment by the Chhattisgarh state police. Despite her pleas in the courts that she be held in Delhi, she was sent back to Chhattisgarh. After seeing preliminary indications that she had been tortured in police custody, the Supreme Court ordered an independent medical examination at NRS Medical College, Kolkata, where doctors found stones lodged in her vagina and rectum. In a series of letters written to the Supreme Court Advocate from jail, Sori recounted how she was stripped, electrocuted, and physically and sexually tortured by the police.

More than six months after she was tortured, Sori continues to be imprisoned in Chhattisgarh and has received virtually no follow up medical treatment for the injuries she sustained in police custody and the infections that have developed as a consequence. According to two people (one of whom is her lawyer) who were allowed to meet Sori in prison last week, her face was visibly swollen and her hands and feet appeared abnormally thin, indicating severe weight loss. Sori complained of a severe burning sensation while passing urine and of blisters on her thighs and her private parts. The magistrate in the Dantewada court, where Sori was produced earlier in the week, is reported to have remarked that she appeared unwell. According to the jail doctor in Raipur, Sori suffers from fluctuating and high blood pressure and from anaemia. Yet, on those occasions when she has been taken to the Raipur Medical College, she met with ridicule, indifference and inadequate care from the doctors and other hospital personnel. Police interference with the doctors is also suspected.

No investigation or action has been initiated against the police officers responsible for her torture. On the contrary, Superintendent of Police Ankit Garg, named in Sori’s letters, was awarded a Gallantry Medal on Republic Day, 2012. Sori’s petition before the Supreme Court asking to be transferred out of Chhattisgarh has been subjected to repeated delays and is still pending. Her health continues to deteriorate in the meantime.

Sori is just one of many women subject to torture and sexual violence in custody. In a recent report, the Asian Centre for Human Rights documented that four custodial deaths had occurred daily in India over the past decade. Those demanding medical attention for Sori fear the worst by the time she is granted a final hearing.

The complete list of signatories is available here.