Soni Sori acquitted in 2011 sedition case, asks “can they return 12 years back to me?”

A special court in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada acquitted prominent Adivasi activist Soni Sori in a sedition case filed against her in 2011.

On Tuesday, Special judge Vinod Kumar Dewangan found Sori, her aide Lingaram Kodopi, a contractor BK Lala and Essar official DVCS Varma not guilty in an FIR filed by the Dantewada police in September 2011.  The cops had alleged that Lala had paid Rs 15 lakhs to Sori and Kodopi to pay Maoists for the Essar company.

With this, Sori has finally been acquitted of all the cases lodged against her under the previous Bharatiya Janata Party government, according to Indian Express.

Raman Singh was the chief minister of the state when Soni Sori was targeted and framed by the authorities.

“The prosecution has not been able to prove the charges against the accused beyond any objectionable doubt,” read the order.

“Can they return the 12 years back to me?” asked the 47-year-old tribal rights activist who has been an outspoken critic of police violence towards tribespeople in Chhattisgarh.

The case was probed by a special NIA court in Jagdalpur and transferred to a special court in Dantewada.

Soni Sori who works in Chhattisgarh, where the long-term conflict between Maoists and government security forces has greatly affected the indigenous people in the area, has previously been targeted by the authorities on several occasions. In May 2018, Soni Sori won the Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk. 

In prison, she repeatedly suffered torture and sexual harassment by prison staff. “I was often made to sit naked in my cell. And then one day stones were inserted in my private parts. I thought this was the end,” she earlier said. After she said about it in public, a Supreme Court inquiry confirmed that sexual torture had taken place.

By April 2013, she had been acquitted of six of the eight cases filed against her. She was released in 2014 and has since been repeatedly subjected to harassment and intimidation by the police.

After her release, she joined Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and stood in the April 2014 general elections in Bastar.

In February 2016, Sori was attacked with a chemical substance in Chhattisgarh. “It was dark, I couldn’t see their faces and all I heard were threats that if I didn’t stop raising my voice against police atrocities, they’d attack my daughter next,” she had told the BBC.