Why is Mr. Chidambaram Silent on the Adivasi Ruchikas of Bastar?
Why is Sodi Sambho being stopped from meeting her lawyer and the public?
Sodi Sambho is one of 13 eyewitnesses who have petitioned the Supreme Court in the case of a massacre by police and security forces at Gompad, Bastar on October 1, 2009, in which 9 adivasis were killed; the breasts of an old woman cut off, fingers and tongue of a two-year-old baby cut off, and many, including Sodi herself, severely injured.
Initially the police at Dantewada tried to prevent her from coming to Delhi for treatment. Following a directive by the Supreme Court, she is now in a private room at AIIMS, but is a virtual prisoner, prevented from meeting anyone, including activists, the press and even her lawyer. Some of her fellow petitioners and eyewitnesses have been jailed in Bastar she and they are all being intimidated to force them to withdraw/change their statements.
Meanwhile 'Operation Greenhunt' is in full swing, with combing operations and state terror against adivasis all happening away from any public scrutiny. One can only imagine how many more Gompads are being perpetrated.
On January 18, at 6 in the evening, AIPWA, AISA and other organisations including Saheli, PUDR, JTSA, CPDM and many journalists, doctors and concerned citizens assembled at the gates of the AIIMS to hold a dharna and candle-light vigil to express solidarity with her, and to protest against the fact that she is being prevented by police and hospital security personnel from meeting her lawyer and friends. A large number of students from JNU, DU, Jamia Millia Islamia under the banner of AISA joined the dharna, raising slogans against the isolation and intimidation of Sodi and other adivasis who have testified against rape and massacre by SPOs, Salwa Judum and security forces in Bastar. Activists addressed a mass meeting at the dharna spot, and construction workers and other bystanders responded warmly to the protest and joined the vigil.
During the dharna a team of women, including Kalpana Mehta (Saheli), Indira Chakravarthi, Dr. Ajitha, Kaveri (PUDR), Tehelka reporter Tusha Mittal, Kavita Krishnan (AIPWA) and Arundhati Roy tried to meet Sodi, but were prevented from doing so by hospital security guards. It became apparent that the hospital authorities are colluding with police in illegally isolating the eyewitness to a police massacre.
We have witnessed how a middle class girl like Ruchika found herself helpless in the face of the power mobilised against her by a police officer. What, then, is the fate of women from socially and economically more vulnerable sections? Women like Sodi and her adivasi sisters, whose accusations against police and security forces in Bastar threaten not just the individual prestige of a Rathore, but the very legitimacy of an anti-insurgency war waged by none less than the Government of India?
We demand that Sodi be allowed to meet her lawyer and friends freely; the lives, liberties and rights of eyewitnesses and complainants against Gompad massacre and rapes in Dantewada be protected; Police officers, SPOs, and security personnel guilty of rapes, brutalities and massacres in Bastar be punished; Operation 'Greenhunt' be called off immediately and adivasis of Bastar be allowed to return to their villages in peace.
In Memory of Faiz Ahmad Faiz
(February 13 1911- November 20 1984)
(Translations by Agha Shahid Ali, from his book The Rebel's Silhouette.)
You Tell Us What To Do
When we launched life
on the river of grief,
how vital were our arms, how ruby our blood.
With a few strokes, it seemed,
we would cross all pain,
we would soon disembark.
That didn't happen.
In the stillness of each wave we found invisible currents.
The boatmen, too, were unskilled,
their oars untested.
Investigate the matter as you will,
blame whomever, as much as you want,
but the river hasn't changed,
the raft is still the same.
Now you suggest what's to be done,
you tell us how to come ashore.
When we saw the wounds of our country
appear on our skins,
we believed each word of the healers.
Besides, we remembered so many cures,
it seemed at any moment
all troubles would end, each wound would heal completely.
That didn't happen: our ailments
were so many, so deep within us
that all diagnoses proved false, each remedy useless.
Now do whatever, follow each clue,
accuse whomever, as much as you will,
our bodies are still the same,
our wounds still open.
Now tell us what we should do,
you tell us how to heal these wounds.
Speak, your lips are free.
Speak, it is your own tongue.
Speak, it is your own body.
Speak, your life is still yours....
Speak, this brief hour is long enough
Before the death of body and tongue:
Speak, 'cause the truth is not dead yet,
Speak, speak, whatever you must speak.