Support Soni Sori's struggle

The acid attack on Adivasi rights activist and Aam Aadmi Party leader Soni Sori must be condemned in strongest terms. The activist was smeared with a corrosive, acid-like greasy substance on Saturday. Her assailants are yet to be identified. The attack is believed to be part of a larger, ongoing campaign in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district to drive out those who are asking the government inconvenient questions. Bastar is the epicentre of the government’s counter-insurgency operations against the Maoists. Activists and journalists working in the area have been documenting the countless ways in which the Adivasis here, who are caught in the crossfire of the State vs Maoists battle, are being subjected to harassment and torture. In recent weeks, the police ordered media persons and activists, including Soni Sori to leave Bastar. Several of them have already left. However, Sori dug in her heels and refused to quit; Bastar, after all, is her home and the Adivasis are her people. There are many vested interests in Bastar who are keen to see her leave as she has been an outspoken critic of the mining corporations that are illegally grabbing Adivasi land there. She has been drawing attention to the state’s collusion with these mining giants and the dirty war that it is waging against Adivasis. If Soni Sori leaves Bastar, the Adivasis will be left without anyone on the ground to reveal to the world their suffering.
If Soni Sori’s assailants and their handlers – senior officials of the Dantewada police are suspected of having ordered the attack – thought that the acid attack on the activist would silence her, they are wrong. She is recovering and has promised to return to Bastar. This is heartening. Her battle against the Chhattisgarh government pits her against very powerful forces. But she has shown that she has the spunk and spirit to fight back. The people of India can be justifiably proud of Soni Sori’s struggle. She is likely to come under pressure and attacks again. She has said that she fears for the lives of her children.
Civil society must stand by Soni Sori. Activists in India’s conflict zones rarely get the support of other activists, let alone the public in other parts of India. This is especially the case when it comes to Bastar as this area is remote. Additionally, the lives of the Adivasis and their suffering do not strike a chord with people like us as their problems are distant to our own experiences. This needs to change. Indians must make Soni Sori’s struggle their own. 

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