On February 20, Soni Sori was attacked. A substance was thrown at her, her face and eyes still burn, skin scarred. It does not matter whether it was acid or grease. It could have been mud or coffee, for all I care. Let us remember that this was not some ink-throwing protest; her attackers wanted to hurt her because they oppose her very existence.
The police say this cannot be termed an attack. Somebody stopping their bike, holding a knife at the neck of a co-worker late at night and throwing stuff on her is not an attack? But this is how the pugnacity has been explained for decades. Adivasis are meant to be crushed, they believe.
Soni Sori is a tribal. Like many tribals, she was dismissed as a Naxalite and imprisoned and tortured. She lives with tribals, works with and for tribals, and has faced many attacks even outside prison for being a tribal, including horrific rape where stones were pushed into her vagina. It did not happen in Delhi so most people did not know. Chances are, even if we did, it would not matter much.
Think of Soni Sori as a representative of the many victims from those parts. Such abuse is common. Few can channelise their anger.
During the general elections, she was Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s candidate from Bastar. She had said, ”I felt if I have to change things in Bastar, politics is the only way. I realised that it was only through politics that I can empower myself, and when I am empowered, I would be able to empower people in Bastar as well. The freedom of my people has been curtailed. I want to give their freedom back to them.”
Politics does empower, but only the powerful. She continues being the activist she was, with a new label. Arvind Kejriwal rarely mentions her, for Bastar is not the centre of action. Until she is attacked.
Soni Sori was flown to Delhi for treatment. This, I believe, was a wrong move. She should not have agreed. The tribals she has stood by do not have such access to facilities. She certainly deserves good medical treatment, but from the little I’ve gathered she is out of danger. Her fears for the safety of her family are cause for concern. The state government has to address this. She is the representative of the people of Bastar; her security translates into their security.
The last thing we want is for this brave woman to be put under ‘house arrest’ by her own party. Not only would she become a totem for AAP looking for something beyond its middle class stupor, but it would also help the folks who want her out of Chhattisgarh. This is how the political system works. True voices are silenced by fake noises.
An earlier piece: Soni Sori: A Conduit for the Aam Aadmi Party?