Linga Ram Kodopi, a trained journalist and Soni Sori’s nephew, who is accused of having Naxal connections has been in prison since 10 September 2011. He writes an open letter to fellow Indians. (republished from Tehelka)
I am writing this letter in the hope that you all will do justice to the torture and injustices being inflicted upon me and my fellow Adivasis.
I have passed through three pillars of the Indian democracy—the Executive, the Judiciary and the media—I do not have hope any more that these three pillars will bring justice to me or to other Adivasis. Because, when I came back after studying journalism in Delhi and met with the administration officials and told them that I had no connection with the Naxals—I was asked to not go to Delhi and to cut off all links [with people in Delhi]. On being told this by District Collector OP Chaudhary, Bastar Division Commissioner K Srinivasalu and police officer Anshuman Sisodia, I broke off all contact with the intellectuals in Delhi. I did not know that on breaking links with Delhi, I would be charged with taking money from Essar for supporting the Naxals and sent to jail. I was brought to the Palnar weekly market on the pretext of being questioned by plainclothes policemen. I didn’t even know that Essar gives money to Naxals. The next day when I read about the ‘notes incident’ in the newspaper and saw Soni Sori and my name, I felt the ground slip beneath my feet.
After reading the newspaper in the police station in Dantewada, I wept and pleaded with the policemen that I had nothing to do with this case. Then the policemen made me sign on blank papers. In my defense, I showed them my PAN card, voter ID card, State Bank ATM card, but the police brushed them aside as forged documents from the Delhi intellectuals. I had been taken to the house of the SP to be administered electric shocks, but I was saved thanks to the affidavit from 2009.
The police even asked me: “is Soni Sori your mistress or your wife that she moved the High Court for you and got you released, and you also took her to Delhi?” Apart from that, they even said—once let us get our hands on her, and then see what we do to her. I could not even imagine that they would do all this to my aunt Soni Sori. From 2009-10, they had been trying to get Soni Sori to help me get arrested and call me back from Delhi and quit journalism, and for this they had tried to bribe her with money and contracts. But my aunt did not listen to the policemen and all this was done to her.
In 2009, I refused to become a Special Police Officer, and since then this government has been after my life. I had thought that after training in journalism, I will serve my culture and the Adivasi society—it was then that the police told the media that I was going to take up the position of Azad and gave me a bad name. One always gets criticised in journalism—thinking this I returned to my village in order to lead an ordinary life. It was then that I was created into a Maoist supporter, and an international terrorist and a traitor. And when various intellectuals and social activists in the country are being called terrorists, then whose support can we count on and who will bring us justice?
In the injustices that are being perpetrated against Adivasis, the judiciary and the media are equal partners. For four months in the Dantewada jail, I had to live on a half-empty stomach. Not only me but all prisoners were subjected to ill-treatment there. If anyone objected, he was stripped and beaten. When I complained before the Judge, he said: “What can I do?” In the Dantewada court the judges only take the administration and the police’s side. It is because of this that the Adivasi women are detained for three months on charges of being Naxals, forced into prostitution and sent to jail. After some months these women even deliver their babies in jail. In such a situation, who will give us justice?
In jail, everyone lives in fear. Women cannot talk openly of their situation. Just like Sikhs were killed in the name of terrorism, I feel that Adivasis are being targeted in the name of Naxalism. I too was targeted. I opposed a few things and argued with the judge, and so I was moved to the Jagdalpur jail. The next day, when I was presented before the lower officials of the jail, they said: “Why did you bring this boy to the jail, you should have shot him in the middle of the road”. When the jail authorities treat us with so much hatred, then how much will the ordinary people hate us when we get out of the jail? Even the Judge looks at us with hatred.
I do not want to pick up arms, then why am I being pressurised? One should try to avoid war. When the intellectuals of the country come forward to stop this war and spread the message of love amongst the Adivasis, they get charged under the Public Security Act (PSA). The Chhattisgarh government hates me and the Adivasis. The government has vowed to label me a Naxal and kill me. So much was done to my aunt only because she supported me. Today my sister comes alone to meet me in jail. I don’t know what will happen to her. I have lost my aunt – our lives are destroyed anyways. I cannot see others being sacrificed because of me. Perhaps this torture will end with my death. I do not want to kill anyone for my self-defense and the government is compelling me to take up arms. The police had vowed to torture my aunt, and they did. They have taken a vow to kill me in a Naxal uniform. They can kill me as soon as I get out of jail. I do not want to die labeled as a Naxal, nor do I want to pick up arms to live.
Hence, I pray to all the intellectuals of the country to please get me killed within the jail itself. In any case, people only hate us Adivasis that is why we are being killed one-by-one. I will be also counted as one among them. Had I belonged to this country, the police would have accepted my identification cards. Probably, I do not belong to this country at all. That is why Adivasis get murdered. I cannot meet any of the intellectuals, if I go to anyone’s house, then they too will get charged under the PSA. The very right of living in this country has been snatched from me. I curse myself today – when the Chhattisgarh police had defamed me and accused me of being a Maoist spokesperson, I should have committed suicide. I would not have lived to see this day.
There is no hope of getting justice either. In Jadgalpur jail there are people who have been here for seven-to-eight years on charges of being Naxals and no hearing has taken place yet. For some, no proceeding has taken place at all. I have lost faith in everything. If there is one hope, it is in the Supreme Court, but it takes 2-3 years to reach the Supreme Court. Justice delayed is also an injustice.
Even in jail, there is harassment. The chargesheet was given only after six months, and till today there is no evidence. Those who can pay money are released. We are poor, we don’t have the money, so we have to bear imprisonment. Whoever has money has the support of the judiciary, legislature, executive and media. We Adivasis have nothing besides our jal, jangal, zameen (water, forests and land). The national media observes the administration and the oppressed in an unbiased way and saves our lives. The Chhattisgarh media takes the side of the administration and spreads hatred for Adivasis among the people. When Chhattisgarh state was created, it was said that the Adivasis are being protected. This did not turn out to be true. Their purpose was to the stop the intellectuals from other states to enter Chhattisgarh using the PSA and to kill Adivasis. The Adivasis don’t even know about the judiciary, executive, legislature, media. I have some information and so, I am in jail. The Chhattisgarh police has declared Swami Agnivesh, Himanshu Kumar, Medha Patkar, Arundhati Roy and others as traitors, then who is a citizen of this country?
The Chhattisgarh government doesn’t approve of the clothes I wear and the fact that I want to change myself. It doesn’t approve of me talking about the journalism courses I was pursuing. Whoever stays with me or supports me is worthy of punishment in the view of the government. I wanted to capture the culture of the Adivasis in the camera; but I was sent to jail before I could do it and I can see the injustices being meted out to other Adivasis. Where politics should have been for the benefit of the common man, there the common man is dying. The Adivasis don’t even have an elected representative who could raise these issues in the legislative assembly; the ones we have, have already sold themselves for money. No justice can be expected from them. If I had the capacity to confer honors on anyone, then for the injustices being meted out to me, my aunt and to other Adivasis, I would have honored the Chhattisgarh government. I do not want to criticise anyone, but the injustices are compelling me to criticize.
The film Avatar is similar to the atrocities carried out in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh state. Seeing this injustice, one feels that humanity is dead in the country and all human societies will soon come to an end. The same Adivasis who have lived in this country since the beginning – their very existence is in danger. Even Lal Krishna Advani has said that the government in Chhattisgarh is a BJP government – I can send in the army whenever I want and kill Naxals, i.e. the Adivasis. The truth is that several states in the country have Naxals, but these governments only declare those states as Naxal states where they find Adivasis.
I am an independent journalist, but my independence has been taken away in jail. Maybe the injustices against Adivasis will increase because of this letter. Anything can happen to me for writing this letter. I want that I should be shot as soon as possible, or hung till dead, so that I can meet the maker of the human race and ask why we Adivasis were not granted the right to live on this earth along with nature. I had read in a religious book that there is a god in every human; but I am now tired of asking humans for justice. The government has littered my life with so many thorns that perhaps it is not possible any more for me to walk on these thorns. I have begun to think that there can be no better house for me in this world than the crematorium. Himanshu sir, had once said that it is easier to die, and difficult to live. I have nothing but my tears and my will power to live is also receding. I pray to all the intellectuals of this country that they should grant me death as soon as possible.
Whatever criticism, analyses I do of the injustice happening to all of us is inadequate – I do not even have the vocabulary to write everything. Please present this letter amongst people and free me from this life at the earliest. If I remain in this jail for too long, I will go mad thinking about the four pillars of this country. Having adopted truth and non-violence, I have lost a lot of my things. I am under observation in this jail as a hardcore Naxal. Why has so much happened to me? Will the unity and integrity of this nation be destroyed I walk on the path of truth and non-violence? Or is this path wrong? Gandhiji’s photo and sayings are exhibited everywhere, but why does no one follow them?