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Police threatening, harassing us, says Soni Sori family

Delhi: Tribal activist and Aam Aadmi Party(AAP) leader from Bastar Lingaram Kodopi on Monday alleged harassment and intimidation by the local police, and said that he does not know if he will remain a free man for long. Alleging that the police is trying to falsely implicate him of carrying out the attack on his aunt Soni Sori, Kodopi held a press conference in the Capital and wrote a letter to President Pranab Mukherjee asking him to intervene urgently “to stop the violence being meted on the adivasis of the Bastar division, and the breakdown of law in the region”.

Kodopi alleged that the attacks on adivasis, activists and journalists who have spoken against the “reign of terror” on Bastar have increased in the last few months. And, that after Soni Sori was attacked last month, the Special Investigations Team (SIT), formed to look into the matter have instead repeatedly questioned Soni Sori’s relatives instead of investigating the case. The SIT comprises of three IPS officials of the anti-naxal operations, ASP Santosh Singh of Sukhma district, ASP Kalyan Ellesella of Bijapur, and CSP Deepmala Kashyap of Jagdalpur Division.
Kodopi said that on Monday morning he has received communication from the Bastar police to sign a bond stating that he will not carry out any activity that will violate the peace of the region in the next six months.
He said that Sori’ sister Dhani Markam and her husband Ajay Markam, too, were picked up by the police. While being interrogated, Ajay was repeatedly told that he will be arrested for the attack on Sori, and when Sori’s father went to the police to inquire about them, Bastar IG Kalluri abused them with vulgar language, calling Sori “a prostitute”, and told him that Sori will be killed and Kodopi arrested.
Kodopi said that his family has been harassed several times before, but that the fresh spate of violence followed the gangrapes of several adivasi women by security forces in January. He said that the pressure on the Jagdalpur Legal Aid group, Scroll journalist Malini Subramaniam to leave Bastar, and the attack on Soni Sori were connected.
Kodopi’s lawyer, Vrinda Grover, said that Kodopi has been falsely implicated in two cases and illegally detained. “The only case which is pending against him will now have to be reargued, because the judge has been changed,” she said.
Grover said that Chattisgarh’s jails are alarmingly overcrowded. “When Sori was in Delhi, the SIT flew down here to record her statement. They flew back without recording it. This is the suspension of the Constitution, where the control over resources is restricted to the state. This is a mode of development where adivasis are not allowed to raise a voice,” she said.
Grover alleged that the SIT has not carried out proper investigation in the matter. “When we spoke to the doctor of the burns ward about Sori’s burns, the doctor said that he has been practicing since 1970s, and yet, has never come across anything like this. Why is the SIT not trying to track down what chemical caused the burn, and where will it be available, instead of harassing Sori’s family,” said Grover.
Kodopi who was leaving for Bastar, said, “I am not sure if I will be safe once I go back,” he said.

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