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Dalit Bahujan Adivasi

Just kill me now. Shoot. I am ready to die: Soni Sori

After a chilling video of alleged attack on the activist went viral on social media, SabrangIndia's Karuna John spoke to Soni Sori and SP Dr Abhishek Pallava to get both sides of the story

Karuna John 02 Jul 2020

soni sori

Soni Sori, the renowned human rights activist from Chhattisgarh has for the first time confronted, on video, people she alleges were following her in an unmarked car. “Just kill me now. Shoot. I am ready to die,” she is seen and heard saying clearly. “Film this, they want to pressurise me. They want to kill me. I want to tell the entire administration,” she goes on to say in a video that has since gone viral on social media. Sori challenges the men in the car, till they reverse and leave the scene.

Soni Sori has now been issued a notice to explain why she posted the video on social media. Her mentor, social activist Himanshu Kumar has also been issued a similar notice as he posted the video on his social media accounts. The two had recently cancelled their plans to visit Sarkeguda (Bijapur) to commemorate the 2012 killings of 17 people. “The enquiry commission had given a report that the victims were innocent,” said Himashu Kumar, explaining that the activists were planning to go there with others and talk with local leaders about plans to erect a memorial to the victims on June 28 (the day of massacre). However, Soni Sori was denied permission at the last moment, even though she had applied for it 24 hours ahead. The group cancelled the trip, and on June 29 Sori came to Dantewada. That is when the bizarre chain of events unfolded. 

However,  according to area SP Dr Abhishek Pallava, Soni Sori has to follow the security protocol as she is a Y+ protectee. “Right now section 144 is also imposed in the district, under the Covid-19 protocol. She needs to inform the security whenever she goes around. It is our responsibility to protect her. She goes deep into the interiors, what if something happens? What if she is attacked? She can also self harm. Then the blame falls on the police, suspensions will be ordered.”

SabrangIndia spoke to both, Soni Sori, as well as Dantewada Superintendent of Police, Dr Abhishek Pallava, in separate telephone conversations to get their views. Here are their responses, edited only for language and clarity.

 

Question: What led to the confrontational situation? What are the allegations and responses?

Soni Sori: The Dantewada administration has issued two notices to me now. They have asked me why I put the video of my confronting the men in the car, on social media. They also sent a notice to Himanshu ji [activist Himashu Kumar who first shared the video]. I asked them why they sent him a notice, he is my mentor. I have known him for so long, he is my guru and I had gone to tell him that I feared for my life. I showed him the video. I realised I was being followed. First, I was followed by some people riding on a motorcycle, then there was this white car without a number plate that was tailing me. I decided I will talk to them in front of the Dantewada Collector-SP’s bungalow. They tried to run me over with the car. I gathered courage and stood in front of the vehicle and challenged them loudly, and told them to kill me if they wanted to. You can see the video. 

SP Dr Pallava: She has been given notice. Many notices have been issued in the past also, whenever she has violated protocol earlier. We send the reports to the state level screening committee which has personnel from the IB, state intelligence etc. They assess the security requirements. She needs to approach the court, or go to the intelligence committee if she does not want security. She has never applied officially for the security to be removed. It is not our decision. Security cannot be withdrawn suo motu. If she leaves the area, we inform the local thana. The loss of privacy is the other aspect of getting protection. We all have a loss of privacy because we are protected by security guards too. There are 22 other protectees in the area. No one else has complaints. 

 


Question: Has a confrontation like this happened earlier?

Soni Sori: No. When I suffered the chemical attack in 2016, it was at night. I have suffered even before I was arrested, but  this is the first time I made a video… because I could. I saw them following me in a car without a number plate. I shouted at them to just kill me already if they want to. Kill. Better to die in one shot than die bit by bit everyday. Enough is enough. I am fed up of this and so I shouted and challenged them. They were trying to run away but I stood in front of the car. Kill me now. End it, I said. They reversed the car and fled. I told the nodal authority this and asked why did these people run? Why the hurry, I asked? I said take away your gunmen.

SP Dr Pallava: The driver was instructed to leave the spot and not confront Ms Sori. The policeman did not want to confront her, what if she charged him with something else. This is not the first time she has confronted the security. There are no women cops available for this posting as there are no facilities, and the men on duty do not want a confrontation with her. This is a Naxal area, security personnel often move in vehicles with no number plates or have fake numbers, and are without uniform. Else we are targets, will be neutralised [killed].


Question: The police alleged you do not inform them when you travel.

Soni Sori: I am still in the district, still in Dantewada, Bastar. I will talk to the lawyers. The police say I went without telling them and they were ‘patrolling me’. If they were doing that why did they not tell me when I confronted them? They were not in uniform, so how will I know who they were? They want me to always take 24 hour prior permission. I visit families where someone has died. How will I know beforehand if someone is dying… Death does not give a warning. In fact, an aunt of mine died today and I have to go to my village. My father called, he is unwell, and I want to go see him. I do not know if I can go.

SP Dr Pallava: She is a protectee, she also must have a responsibility. She leaves for sudden visits without informing. The protection guard must brief us 24 hours before. We have instructed the static guard posted outside her house also. He has to inform us. On that day she left Geedam at 7:30 A.M, the local police station came to know and informed the police patrol that was there to respond to a domestic disturbance call. The patrol car followed her on instructions, on a main public road, when she confronted it.
 


Question: What about the Y+ category security in place?

Soni Sori: I always have two gunmen with me… [I feel] even they are harassed... Even today I told them to go away. I do not want security, because they just keep an eye on me and inform their bosses. If I go to the villages I stay for a couple of days, the gunmen come with me. I go to villages to meet families who have lost people in violent attacks [Naxal-Security forces]. The villagers feed me and also treat them well… I tell the villagers they also have to make sure the [security] gunmen should not be harmed… The villagers always take responsibility for us.

SP Dr Pallava: There are 12 security guards on duty for her protection. The government spends on their salaries etc. Some are from outside the area and they have to rent a place to stay, manage their food. She does not offer them even tea, says the government must provide. She had complained that the guard accompanying her does not have a vehicle, so we issued him a motorcycle.

 

Question: Are you safe now Soni Sori?

Soni Sori: I am out on bail since 2014, the UAPA case is still on and is under NIA . After the 2016 chemical attack my skin is now sensitive and reacts when I am out in the sun. I still have to use a cream the doctors gave me then. I lost my teacher's job  and my pending salary is yet to be paid. I have faced a lot but I know that the only way is to [be strong] and fight it.

 

Question: Where is this strength coming from?

Soni Sori: You know, there was something that happened and made me very happy. When I was denied permission to go to Bijapur by the police, I told the adivasi groups there that a leader must emerge from their own people. Normally they want me to be there. This time I could not go. Then they took out a rally by themselves. Also in support of my call. I was so happy when they sent me the video and the pictures. So many people. The adivasis are now starting their own revolution. This was missing. Though, why am I the only one who is denied permission? I left politics, but if the people want, then I will fight for them.

Bijapur rally
A rally in Bijapur after she was denied permission to go and participate.

 

sony


Related

My life is in danger: Soni Sori

Just kill me now. Shoot. I am ready to die: Soni Sori

After a chilling video of alleged attack on the activist went viral on social media, SabrangIndia's Karuna John spoke to Soni Sori and SP Dr Abhishek Pallava to get both sides of the story

soni sori

Soni Sori, the renowned human rights activist from Chhattisgarh has for the first time confronted, on video, people she alleges were following her in an unmarked car. “Just kill me now. Shoot. I am ready to die,” she is seen and heard saying clearly. “Film this, they want to pressurise me. They want to kill me. I want to tell the entire administration,” she goes on to say in a video that has since gone viral on social media. Sori challenges the men in the car, till they reverse and leave the scene.

Soni Sori has now been issued a notice to explain why she posted the video on social media. Her mentor, social activist Himanshu Kumar has also been issued a similar notice as he posted the video on his social media accounts. The two had recently cancelled their plans to visit Sarkeguda (Bijapur) to commemorate the 2012 killings of 17 people. “The enquiry commission had given a report that the victims were innocent,” said Himashu Kumar, explaining that the activists were planning to go there with others and talk with local leaders about plans to erect a memorial to the victims on June 28 (the day of massacre). However, Soni Sori was denied permission at the last moment, even though she had applied for it 24 hours ahead. The group cancelled the trip, and on June 29 Sori came to Dantewada. That is when the bizarre chain of events unfolded. 

However,  according to area SP Dr Abhishek Pallava, Soni Sori has to follow the security protocol as she is a Y+ protectee. “Right now section 144 is also imposed in the district, under the Covid-19 protocol. She needs to inform the security whenever she goes around. It is our responsibility to protect her. She goes deep into the interiors, what if something happens? What if she is attacked? She can also self harm. Then the blame falls on the police, suspensions will be ordered.”

SabrangIndia spoke to both, Soni Sori, as well as Dantewada Superintendent of Police, Dr Abhishek Pallava, in separate telephone conversations to get their views. Here are their responses, edited only for language and clarity.

 

Question: What led to the confrontational situation? What are the allegations and responses?

Soni Sori: The Dantewada administration has issued two notices to me now. They have asked me why I put the video of my confronting the men in the car, on social media. They also sent a notice to Himanshu ji [activist Himashu Kumar who first shared the video]. I asked them why they sent him a notice, he is my mentor. I have known him for so long, he is my guru and I had gone to tell him that I feared for my life. I showed him the video. I realised I was being followed. First, I was followed by some people riding on a motorcycle, then there was this white car without a number plate that was tailing me. I decided I will talk to them in front of the Dantewada Collector-SP’s bungalow. They tried to run me over with the car. I gathered courage and stood in front of the vehicle and challenged them loudly, and told them to kill me if they wanted to. You can see the video. 

SP Dr Pallava: She has been given notice. Many notices have been issued in the past also, whenever she has violated protocol earlier. We send the reports to the state level screening committee which has personnel from the IB, state intelligence etc. They assess the security requirements. She needs to approach the court, or go to the intelligence committee if she does not want security. She has never applied officially for the security to be removed. It is not our decision. Security cannot be withdrawn suo motu. If she leaves the area, we inform the local thana. The loss of privacy is the other aspect of getting protection. We all have a loss of privacy because we are protected by security guards too. There are 22 other protectees in the area. No one else has complaints. 

 


Question: Has a confrontation like this happened earlier?

Soni Sori: No. When I suffered the chemical attack in 2016, it was at night. I have suffered even before I was arrested, but  this is the first time I made a video… because I could. I saw them following me in a car without a number plate. I shouted at them to just kill me already if they want to. Kill. Better to die in one shot than die bit by bit everyday. Enough is enough. I am fed up of this and so I shouted and challenged them. They were trying to run away but I stood in front of the car. Kill me now. End it, I said. They reversed the car and fled. I told the nodal authority this and asked why did these people run? Why the hurry, I asked? I said take away your gunmen.

SP Dr Pallava: The driver was instructed to leave the spot and not confront Ms Sori. The policeman did not want to confront her, what if she charged him with something else. This is not the first time she has confronted the security. There are no women cops available for this posting as there are no facilities, and the men on duty do not want a confrontation with her. This is a Naxal area, security personnel often move in vehicles with no number plates or have fake numbers, and are without uniform. Else we are targets, will be neutralised [killed].


Question: The police alleged you do not inform them when you travel.

Soni Sori: I am still in the district, still in Dantewada, Bastar. I will talk to the lawyers. The police say I went without telling them and they were ‘patrolling me’. If they were doing that why did they not tell me when I confronted them? They were not in uniform, so how will I know who they were? They want me to always take 24 hour prior permission. I visit families where someone has died. How will I know beforehand if someone is dying… Death does not give a warning. In fact, an aunt of mine died today and I have to go to my village. My father called, he is unwell, and I want to go see him. I do not know if I can go.

SP Dr Pallava: She is a protectee, she also must have a responsibility. She leaves for sudden visits without informing. The protection guard must brief us 24 hours before. We have instructed the static guard posted outside her house also. He has to inform us. On that day she left Geedam at 7:30 A.M, the local police station came to know and informed the police patrol that was there to respond to a domestic disturbance call. The patrol car followed her on instructions, on a main public road, when she confronted it.
 


Question: What about the Y+ category security in place?

Soni Sori: I always have two gunmen with me… [I feel] even they are harassed... Even today I told them to go away. I do not want security, because they just keep an eye on me and inform their bosses. If I go to the villages I stay for a couple of days, the gunmen come with me. I go to villages to meet families who have lost people in violent attacks [Naxal-Security forces]. The villagers feed me and also treat them well… I tell the villagers they also have to make sure the [security] gunmen should not be harmed… The villagers always take responsibility for us.

SP Dr Pallava: There are 12 security guards on duty for her protection. The government spends on their salaries etc. Some are from outside the area and they have to rent a place to stay, manage their food. She does not offer them even tea, says the government must provide. She had complained that the guard accompanying her does not have a vehicle, so we issued him a motorcycle.

 

Question: Are you safe now Soni Sori?

Soni Sori: I am out on bail since 2014, the UAPA case is still on and is under NIA . After the 2016 chemical attack my skin is now sensitive and reacts when I am out in the sun. I still have to use a cream the doctors gave me then. I lost my teacher's job  and my pending salary is yet to be paid. I have faced a lot but I know that the only way is to [be strong] and fight it.

 

Question: Where is this strength coming from?

Soni Sori: You know, there was something that happened and made me very happy. When I was denied permission to go to Bijapur by the police, I told the adivasi groups there that a leader must emerge from their own people. Normally they want me to be there. This time I could not go. Then they took out a rally by themselves. Also in support of my call. I was so happy when they sent me the video and the pictures. So many people. The adivasis are now starting their own revolution. This was missing. Though, why am I the only one who is denied permission? I left politics, but if the people want, then I will fight for them.

Bijapur rally
A rally in Bijapur after she was denied permission to go and participate.

 

sony


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My life is in danger: Soni Sori

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