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A February 3, 2012 INDIA-WEST

Protestors Demand Release of Prisoners of Conscience


Americans, we find Human Rights injustices like this to Watch, a non-profit be a huge blemish on organization trackour India, a country ing human rights viowe are all otherwise lations throughout justifiably very proud the globe, issued its of, he added. World Report Jan. Republic Day is 24, citing several a day to celebrate instances of police the Indian Constitorture and custotution. We use the dial killings in Jammu occasion to remind and Kashmir and in ourselves and others Maoist stronghold of the fundamental regions. Alleged Maoist Soni Sori. rights it guarantees India has yet to - rights like the right repeal laws or change to life, personal liberty and the due policies that allow impunity from process of law to all people, eshuman rights violations, and has pecially the most vulnerable of the failed to prosecute even known people of India, said Narasimhan. perpetrators of serious abuses, The small group initially gathered noted the report. at the entrance to the Palace of Human rights activists in Maoist Fine Arts, but was asked to move regions seeking accountability for from the public space by consular arbitrary arrests, torture and killofficials, according to Narasimhan. ings have themselves come under The group then moved about 150 threat from both Naxalite forces feet away from the entrance and and the police, noted the report. handed out flyers and gathered Naxalite forces have killed 250 civilsignatures on a petition as people ians and have targeted schools and walked over to the Republic Day hospitals for bombings, according celebrations inside. to the report, which added that govAsti Bhatt, another organizer of ernment forces have killed at least the San Francisco protest, told In180 Naxalites in the past year. dia-West that at least one attendee Inadequate government overfelt the demonstration made India sight in Chhattisgarh has led to look bad. international mining companies According to him, the instances haphazardly destroying farmlands, of human rights violations in India polluting vital water supplies and are not institutionalized or systemic creating serious health and enviin India but are one-off instances, ronmental hazards, stated Human she said. Rights Watch in its annual report.

Members of the Association for Indias Development protested in San Francisco on Republic Day, to draw attention to the plight of a schoolteacher who was allegedly tortured while in the custody of Indian police. (Sameer Yagnik photo)

By SUNITA SOHRABJI
India-West Staff Reporter

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. As scores of well-dressed people entered the Palace of Fine Arts here Jan. 26 to attend Republic Day celebrations, a small group of protestors gathered outside the entrance to demand the release of two prisoners of conscience. School teacher Soni Sori, 35, and her nephew, journalist Linga Kodopi, 25, have been held by Chhattisgarh police since October

2011 for their alleged collusion with Maoist rebels in the region. Sori and Kodopi are accused of transferring $300,000 from the Essar mining company to Maoist rebels. Amnesty International has declared Sori and Kodopi to be prisoners of conscience and has petitioned the Indian government to immediately and unconditionally release the pair. While in prison, Sori was allegedly brutally tortured by Chhattisgarh police. A medical examina-

tion revealed severe spinal cord damage and stones pushed into her genitals. Protests to release Sori and Kodopi were simultaneously held in London Jan. 26 and in Philadelphia; Washington, D.C.; Austin, Texas; Boston, Mass.; and San Jose, Calif., last weekend. Demonstrations will be held this weekend in Columbus, Ohio and Dallas, Texas. We want to put a stop to torture, Balaji Narasimhan, one of the organizers of the San Francisco protest, told India-West. As Indian