As we know, Chattisgarh Adivasi activist Soni Sori suffered a chemical attack last month after receiving death threats that she suspected were police-instigated. She is still in recovery. Yesterday, her sister Dhaneshwari Markam was abducted by the Bastar police. Dhaneshwari’s husband, Ajay Markam, was illegally detained by the police on Thursday, ostensibly for interrogation in connection with the attack on Soni Sori.
No one knew why or where Dhaneshwari Markam was taken from the hostel in the institute where she studies nursing in Bastar. She was reportedly released last night but told to go back to the police station this morning. Nor do we know anything about Mr Markam’s detention except for a roundabout, utterly unbelievable statement from the police (last five paragraphs in a report here). When Soni Sori’s and Ajay Markam’s relatives went together to the police station to ask for information, they were threatened and insulted by Inspector General Kalluri – the very same officer who, Soni Sori worries, instigated the death threats against her. Sori herself is leaving Delhi (where she was recovering from her attack) to be with her family. In a press conference before her departure, she said she was going back for a “final battle” for “justice and survival”, that she could not “think about my health now”.
The Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group, consisting of lawyers Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal, worked for Adivasi rights. (They were thrown out of Jagdalpur by the police last month.) Soni Sori being one of their clients, they have written a comprehensive letter to Director General of Police AN Upadhyay, Chhattisgarh, providing details of the harassment of Soni Sori’s family and questioning the legality of police procedure in the detainment of Dhaneshwari and Ajay Markam.
The letter is illuminating in the extreme – it offers a peek into the special kind of hell that Soni Sori and her family are being put through, and gives you clues as to why Soni Sori’s nephew, who has his own history of police harassment, talks of committing suicide soon. He too has been accused by the police of complicity in the attack on Soni Sori. It seems like a cunning, nasty little trick – instigate an attack, then round up the victim’s family by accusing them of the attack. It is almost impossible to believe anything that comes out of the Chattisgarh police’s mouths, after after what they’ve done to Sori and her family. So, despite their insistence on Sori being a Naxalite, one is left wondering why the police would go to such extreme lengths to get rid of an Adivasi family and their lawyers.