May 14, 2013

The continuing sorry Sori saga - Indian Express

Semi Column

When tribal teacher Soni Sori's case caught attention, the then Chhattisgarh DGP, curious to know the reality, examined the charges she was slapped with. "Idiots! Who wrote these FIRs?" He is said to have thumped his forehead in astonishment.
Besides the Essar-Maoist payoff case, two of the most prominent charges she faced were the Maoist attack on Kuankonda thana and Congress leader Awdhesh Gautam's home on Palnar in Dantewada. The two assaults were recorded around the same time, on the midnight of July 7, 2010, still the accused in both were almost the same. And though it was absolute darkness and Gautam and his relatives ran for cover, he was able to "recognise" over 60 tribals and named them all in his FIR. Among those named was Sori's husband Anil Putane.
Six cases in four months, husband arrested soon, but alleged Maoist Sori moved freely for over a year in Dantewada. Police hunt began only after the Dantewada police captain was changed as the force that did not touch her in its backyard was now raiding homes over a thousand km away in Rajasthan and Delhi to arrest her.
Many in Chhattisgarh police believe that these cases and her arrest reflected a dangerous and disastrous cocktail of rivalry among cops and the police approach towards tribals.
As Sori continues to be acquitted in these cases, the latest being the attack on Gautam's home, the state police must realise that while a few tribals in interior villages may have some Maoist links, often out of necessity, but that does not make them Maoists and framing them in false cases affects the government's credibility and foments tribal discontent.
Sori's case has also dented the credibility of the Congress, which often slams the BJP government for being unjust to tribals. The Congress recently appointed Gautam, who is believed to have played a dubious role in the Sori affair, the coordinator for the Dantewada Assembly seat reserved for STs.

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