Tribal activist Soni Sori speaks to Aapka Times after recovering from an acidic chemical attack

Aapka TimesĀ  in dialogue with Soni Sori, a tribal right’s activist who was attacked with an acidic chemical the last month. A message to all the women and society at large. We present to you a featured interview with Soni Sori, commemorating the International Working Women’s Day.

You have been working in Bastar for a long time with women,particularly with adivasi women.What type of work do you indulge yourself in and what are the hurdles you need to confront in this concern?

Although I am very much associated with politics, yet the issues that I have been specifically working on has got its roots in what I’ve learnt in my tenure in the jail. I am particularly working on the ongoing battle that is being fought in the name of ‘Naxalism’ between the Chattigharh government and the naxalites.I fight for this cause because during my tenure in the jail, I have witnessed and felt the atrocities with which the police in the name of ‘naxalites’ has been killing adivasis in fake encounters. I work for the rape victims as well.I have been acquainted to such factual Information while I was in the jail and not by reading any books.

You belong to Southern Chattisgharh, could you please share the main cause that pertains to Naxalism,one which is very prominent in Bastar? Why is it so ?

Somewhere it is the policy of the government which has not been able to function properly to bring about the development. For instance,the issue concerning Maoists can end if unemployment eradicated. Education has not been able to spread across those areas.It is again the failed stance of the government that Naxalism is at its peak. It would be morally wrong to end this issue with a war, one can find measures to eradicate this without using fire-arms supplemented by the government. The government on the other hand doesn’t want to end this, instead makes deliberate attempts to increase the problem in its own course.

A lot many reports have mentioned Bastar to be a posh locality inhabiting poor tribals at large. Is it really a posh locality? Is the population actually poor in there? What’s your opinion on it?

To view it at a broader scale, Bastar actually stands out as a place of prominence for the nation today. The places inhabited by our adivasi brothers, the ones which are above forests and rivers, up in the hills is what has been attracting the government for its abundance of resources. It’s all about the habitation of the tribals who reside over lands which are abundant in such rich resources that just in order to occupy the resources is the government killing innocent people on false charges. Well, to see the flipside, adivasis can’t be categorized as poor since their own lands are rich in resources for which they have been fighting for a very long time.

We’ve also heard that there’s an ongoing fight on occupying lands rich in minerals. What would you like to say about this?

It’s the high profile industrialists who want to vacate the place and construct their own companies and the tribals on the other hand are reluctant to give away their lands for they do not need air conditioners, cars or bunglows. Negotiating opinions, I too have tried speaking to our people on assumptions such as, if buildings are constructed on their lands and job opportunities which would eventually increase, there would be massive development in the region. Seeking opinions of people on such assumptions, people stated ” merely one or two generations could live on by being supported by the job opportunities but the lands which we own at present would yield us our own fortune for generations to come, there isn’t any basis to this question, we need our own land. Temporary relaxation won’t suffice”. These days, the way the youth is being educated in the domains of developmental changes, solely industries are being taught to be instrumental of the over all development. The system itself doesn’t realize that absence of forests would lead us to complete darkness of civilization. Recently, education was targeted in an incident in Bastar, where in the students of a school which is placed within the forest were brainwashed as a tactic of political strategy and were made to be agitated against the prospect of acquiring education in the forest. They wanted to leave the forest. I stepped in and made them understand that although they dislike acquiring education in the forest, their parents belong to the same forest.