India: “The jails are full of Soni Soris”

The Hindu, April 3, 2012

by Divya Trivedi

SISTERHOOD: Women narrate their stories. Photo: Divya Trivedi
[SISTERHOOD: Women narrate their stories. Photo: Divya Trivedi]

Women prisoners reveal the shocking conditions of their confinement –custodial violence, which has no sanction under law, is a part and parcel of the system

Following a minor altercation with the warden in Ward No. 8 of Tihar Jail, Zohara Baratali received severe blows on her lower abdomen that made her bleed for a full month before she succumbed to her injuries. That was a decade ago.

Last year, unable to bear the trauma of being stripped, beaten and sexually assaulted by three policemen inside Pratap Nagar Police Station in Jaipur, Seema Singh tried to end her life by jumping in front of a train. She did not die, but became a paraplegic for life. That did not deter the authorities from arresting her. Last week, the hearing for her bail application was adjourned, yet again.

The All India Meet on Women Prisoners & Custodial Violence held in Delhi on the weekend threw light on the plight of women prisoners in the country. Custodial violence, which is illegal and has no sanction under law, is a part and parcel of the system, with Soni Sori’s case having brought it into the forefront. The speakers shared their concern over the use of women’s sexuality to torture and criminalize them, with police reports usually mentioning these women as those with ‘low’ character. According to them around 99.9 per cent of women prisoners in the country belong to the backward Dalit, Adivasi and minority communities.

Trade Union activist Anu said, “The class divide runs deep in jails. If you are dressed well and look affluent, you won’t be asked to do a lot of the work. But others have to be on their feet all the time, even an 80 year old woman is not spared.” Speaking of her days in Tihar Jail, Anu said that the moment one enters the jail, even as an under trial, the perception is that the person is a criminal and an atmosphere of fear is created. Violence and abuses are a part of that fear psychosis. Continue reading

India: “Third Maoist letter to Odisha CM; Abducted MLA requests CM to release tribals jailed on fabricated charges”

Odisha Diary, Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Report by Manoranjan Routray; Koraput : The media in Koraput today received a third letter from the CPI (Maoist) Party regarding release of kidnapped BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka. The letter, addressed to media persons, lashes out at the Naveen Patnaik Government for deliberate inaction on demands stated by CPI (Maoist) Party in exchange of the release of the captive BJD MLA. CPI (Maoist) Party has criticized Government for repeatedly sending requests for appointing negotiators despite the Party’s clear statement that they do not want any mediators and expect the Government to use mediapersons to convey their willingness to act on demands released by the Party to the media ten days ago.

It may be recalled that leader of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) Narayanpatna Nachika Linga had already given a statement in media that their organisation has nothing to do with kidnapping of the BJD MLA. In this context the Party letter asks why then is the Government repeatedly asking for the mediation of CMAS in the matter of release of the captive BJD MLA ? The Party therefore concludes that the Government is trying to buy time by deliberately delaying decision on mediation and action on the stated demands. The letter asks media to reflect whether Government, which is repeatedly asking the CPI (Maoist) Party to abjure violence, is itself bound to this principle ? And whether or not the State is indulging in violence by launching combing operations ? Continue reading