The Chhattisgarh Police arrested Adivasi leader Soni Sori on Saturday, hours before she was scheduled to address a large gathering of villagers in Dantewada district. She was granted bail later in the evening.
Nearly 6,000 people from Bijapur, Sukma and Dantewada had gathered in Nakulnar village, according to Adivasi citizen journalist Linga Kodopi. Sori was to address them regarding the release of innocent Adivasis from various jails in Bastar region.
Kodopi added that other key Advisai leaders, including Manish Kunjam, the president of Adivasi Maha Sabha, were also set to participate.
Though a notification on the meeting was already handed over to the Dantewada collector and the sub-divisional magistrate, the police denied them permission and forcefully took away Sori to the Dantewada police station.
The Congress had promised to end police impunity in Bastar during the Assembly elections in Chhattisgarh. The party went on to wrest a decisive victory over Bharatiya Janata Party, which had ruled the state for 15 years. Newly elected Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had set up a committee to revisit police cases filed against Adivasis in Bastar and had claimed the previous BJP government had fabricated cases against them.
However, his government now faces similar allegations as more arrests have happened under his term.
Sori said the Adivasis had gathered to know what happened to the Congress government’s promises. “They and we, as leaders, are unaware of any committee the government has set in, who the members are or what decisions are being taken,” Sori told Scroll.in. “It’s been 10 months, not only have those innocent arrested not [been] released, but there also appears to be no respite to arrests, fake surrenders and fake encounters since this government has taken charge”, she added.
The activist asked why the government was not willing to have a dialogue with the people. “Is it not accountable to them,” Sori asked. “Instead they [government] humiliated them by driving them away by brute force and forcefully arresting me.” Sori said she will meet the Adivasis on Sunday.
Adivasi rights activist and advocate Bela Bhatia had said a first information report has not been filed. “She has been arrested under Sections 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code, and 107 and 116 that run parallel,” Bhatia told Scroll.in.
Sori was arrested because she did not seek permission for the meeting, Bhatia said. The sub-district magistrate said the exact location and number of people were not conveyed to them.
The meeting was reportedly planned to be an indefinite protest till the villagers get to meet politicians. The villagers wanted the release of their family members who have allegedly been imprisoned for several years.
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