Letter to Raman Singh- stop continued harassment of Soni Sori through “psychiatric evaluation”
Mantralaya, D.K.S. Bhavan,
Raipur, Chhattisgarh 492001
Subject: Please stop continued harassment of Soni Sori through “psychiatric evaluAtion”
Honourable Chief Minister Raman Singh,
We, the undersigned, are shocked to learn from Soni Sori’s lawyers that she is being subjected to a psychiatric evaluation by the Chhattisgarh government in Central Jail, Jagdalpur. This is a devious attempt to declare her mentally unsound and create doubts about the veracity of her complaints of sexual torture in police custody and subsequent harassment in jail. We strongly protest this move by the Chhattisgarh government.
As you may remember, teams from both the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission of Women had visited Raipur Central Jail in November and December 2012, following complaints of ill-treatment of Soni Sori and other women prisoners.
Following this visit, the NHRC has confirmed that “Soni Sori has on several occasions been singled out for harsh and humiliating ill-treatment” and has been subjected to “traumatic ordeals and odious practices” while in Central Jail, Raipur. While the official report of the NCW visit is still pending, the observation of the visiting NCW member, Ms Shamina Shafiq, that Soni Sori needed “psychological counselling” in order to cope with her traumatic experience of sexual abuse in police custody, was extensively covered in the media. However, Ms Annie Raja of NFIW, who was also part of the NCW team visiting the Raipur jail, had rebutted this observation and clarified that “Soni Sori had been very articulate in her meeting with the NCW, and presented her case sharply and precisely. More than counselling, Soni Sori needs justice.”
It appears that your government has taken the casual remark made by Ms Shamina Shafiq, stripped of all context, and used it as a basis to order the jail authorities to administer a psychiatric evaluation of Soni Sori. In a meeting with women’s rights activists in March 2013, Ms. Shafiq expressed her outrage that her sympathetic remark regarding Soni Sori was being turned on its head by your government to Soni Sori’s detriment.
It needs to be recalled that following her custodial torture in October 2011, Soni Sori was denied proper medical examination and treatment in Chhattisgarh. The medical authorities in Raipur, instead of investigating Soni Sori’s injuries due to sexual torture, labelled her a malingerer (a person feigning illness), entirely dismissing her extensive injuries. It was only when Soni Sori was taken to Kolkata under the orders of the Supreme Court that stones thrust into her private parts came to light. Later on, Soni’s entreatments for medical attention fell on deaf ears in Raipur jail, as she continued to suffer from medical complications arising from her sexual torture. It took another order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to bring Soni to AIIMS in Delhi, where she was finally given adequate medical treatment and nursed back to health.
In view of the sheer neglect and ill treatment of Soni Sori on earlier occasions, this “psychiatric evaluation” based upon a third person’s remarks is not indicative of any sudden concern for Soni Sori’s welfare and mental health, but of malafide intentions of the government. We are well aware that your government has still not taken cognizance of the complaint of sexual torture that Soni made against the then SP of Dantewada,
Ankit Garg, a year and a half ago, and has consistently ignored her complaints of harassment by jail authorities. The colossal indifference of your government to the grave issue of her complaints of custodial sexual violence has gone to the extent of recommending Garg for a President’s Gallantry Award In January 2012. Hence, this sudden and prompt concern for Soni’s mental well-being seems rather disingenuous and insincere.
Indeed, this “psychiatric evaluation” appears to be a sinister ploy by the Chhattisgarh government to discredit Soni’s serious and genuine complaints against the police and jail authorities for her sexual torture (confirmed by doctors of NRS Hospital, Kolkata) and harassment and denial of human rights of prisoners in Raipur jails (verified by NHRC).
Apart from attacking Soni Sori’s credibility as a reliable witness, such a psychiatric evaluation can also serve as a basis for locking her away in a mental health institution for an indefinite period of time and avoid taking action against the police officials involved in her torture.
We demand that the Chhattisgarh government immediately quash further proceedings in this “psychiatric evaluation” and instead take sincere and honest steps to redress Ms. Soni’s genuine greivances of sexual torture and ill-treatment.
We wish to re-iterate what Ms Annie Raja has already stated – what Soni Sori needs is respect, dignity and justice, and not a psychiatric evaluation for demanding her rights.
All India Progressive Women’s Assocation (AIPWA)
Citizens’ Collective against Sexual Assault
National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)