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The hidden corruption in India’s troubled heart

A camp for displaced people in Chhattisgarh

The case of Soni Sori and her nephew Linga Kapodi is a disturbing example of the Nasty India hidden within Emerging India.

While an old man publically refusing food in New Delhi manages to rouse the country in a passion of national pride and foot-stamping insistence that ordinary people have finally become sick of the corruption that has become a daily fact of life, it is worrying that the hidden horrors of Chhattisgarh are not coming anywhere close to arousing that same kind of large scale furore.

Amnesty International has circulated the story of Soni Sori, and the crusading Tehelka newspaper has been a notable voice in the defence of Chhattisgarh’s tribals, but somehow Soni, Linga, and their people’s plight is  simply not garnering the kind of attention it warrants.

More than 3000 lives have been lost over the last six year smouldering conflict in the India’s Red Corridor, also known as the Maoist Belt. A couple of big names have been actively trying to highlight the issue of the David and Goliath struggle of corporate interests Vs destitute tribals.  It’s a thankless task.  Dr Binyak Sen, who’s spent his career trying to improve the healthcare in this badly neglected region, was only recently released on bail following a life imprisonment sentence; the activist and educator Himanshu Kumar had his ashram and school burnt down by the authorities two years ago, and even the international literary star Arundhati Roy who has been writing blazingly articulate stories on the conflict that few middle class Indians know anything about, has been accused of sedition and treason.

But its the people on the grassroots level - people like the teacher Soni Sori and her nephew Linga, the region’s first tribal journalist, who have been living in the Kafkaesque reality of today’s Chhattisgarh.  Hounded by both Maoists and the police for staunchly refusing to take sides, both currently in custody after a series of opaque run ins with the authorities.

Soni Sori didn’t turn up to her court hearing yesterday because she was so badly hurt while in police custody.  The Chhattisgarh police it seems, have bathrooms so deadly that to slip on the floor of one leads to spinal and head injuries.

If it’s true that Indians have had enough of corruption and really want to take a stand, then they must make every effort to find out the truths behind the complicated stories of people like Soni Sori; they must look up the career histories of people like their Home Minister P. Chidambaram which may go some way in explaining certain political stands in places like Chhattisgarh;  and they must make themselves familiar wih the work of people like Dr Binayak Sen before they buy the official accusatory lines of sedition and treason.

Soni Sori has just been transferred to a hospital in Raipur.  She too has reverted to the traditional protest of the hunger strike.  Unlike the plentiful photo ops of Anna Hazare however, there are no cute little tots holding up food for her to eat to the applause of thousands.  Soni, who is a mother of small children, a teacher, a woman who has tried to remain true to herself and her people, is chained to her bed, unvisited and isolated.  I try to imagine her pain, her terror, her bewilderment at the recent turns her life has taken - and I find that I can’t.

1 Comment on “The hidden corruption in India’s troubled heart”

  1. #1 David Berridge
    on Oct 13th, 2011 at 8:09 pm

    It is amazing that the mainstream media in India or abroad does not learn of this and report it. The wealthier parts of India recieves news about the country from a variety of sources, but does not receive news about those who suffer the worst. For the average middle class Indian where would they begin to learn of a specific region of the country on their own? India is still a diverse and complex counrty even with the advent of modern communications for the average citizen who has the time and means to keep up. The magazine industry seems the best to cover the story, especially those with national coverage and the resources to be independent in their reporting of the situation, without being intimidated by the local or national government. The motivation to write about the people invovled and what they are going through to a national readership seems rational enough to open many eyes. It should be done as a start to doing something about the numerous injustices happening in the Maoist Belt.

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