Aditi Tandon, Tribune News Service
New Delhi, January 30. Women’s groups are up in arms against the award of President’s Police Medal to the officer who allegedly supervised the sexual torture on Soni Sori, an adivasi teacher currently under trial in Chhattisgarh for alleged links with Maoists.
Dantewada Superintendent Police Ankit Garg, who won this year’s President Gallantry Award, was on duty in the Dantewada police station where Sori was sexually tortured on the night of October 8, 2011.
The 35-year-old’s horrific tale would have remained untold had it not been for the intervention of the Supreme Court that ordered an independent probe into her physical condition, which Chhattisgarh doctors were underplaying.
The probe by NRS Government Hospital, Kolkata, established the presence of pebbles in Sori’s private parts. The report was submitted to the apex court on November 25, 2011 after which Sori was shifted out of Dantewada to Raipur Central Jail where she is now lodged.
Flagging the issue today, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), a national network of women’s organisations, slammed the award to Ankit Garg. “We are shocked and outraged by the conferring of President’s Police Medal for Gallantry on Dantewada SP Ankit Garg. Ankit has been named by Soni Sori in several letters to the SC stating that he ordered sexual violence against her on the night of October 8, 2011 when she was in his custody.”
In the case before the court, Sori wrote that while she was in custody in the Dantewada police station, she was stripped before Ankit Garg and given electric shocks on his directions.
She said that not only did he use abusive language against her, he ordered three police personnel to “punish her” by sexually torturing her for disobeying his command to name social activists such as Agnivesh, Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy as Naxal supporters. “NRS Government Hospital Kolkata under the direction of the Supreme Court confirmed Sori’s sexual torture after they recovered stones embedded in her private parts,” women’s groups said.
Importantly, human rights activists including CPM Politbureau member Brinda Karat and National Advisory Council member Aruna Roy had in a letter to the Supreme Court Chief Justice on January 24 sought Sori’s protection from the Chhattisgarh police, stating how the truth of her misery was sought to be buried by the state. “On October 10, 2011, Sori was taken to be produced in the Magistrate’s Court in Dantewada. But she was unable to get out of the police van due to pain. The police said she slipped in the bathroom and hurt herself. Doctors at Dantewada District Hospital and Government Medical College, Jagdalpur, said she had a history of unconsciousness and was unable to stand due to pain in the lumbar region,” the letter signed by human rights activists said.
In all her statements to relatives and the letter she addressed to the Supreme Court last year, Sori narrated her custodial torture at the hands of Ankit Garg, stating how she was “pulled out of her cell in Dantewada police station on October 8, 2011 night and taken to Ankit Garg’s room where she was stripped and administered electric shocks and stones and batons inserted into her private parts.”
Who’s Soni Sori?
A 35-year-old adivasi schoolteacher, she’s warden of a government school for tribal children in Jabeli, Dantewada. Was arrested in Delhi on October 4, 2011 after exposing evidence of being framed by Chhattisgarh Police in multiple cases. Soni is being tried for links with Maoists.