Soni Sori: How A Village Teacher Became A Firebrand Politician
Braveheart activist from Bastar, Chhattisgarh, Soni Sori’s foray into politics is definitely a story that needs to be told. Working as teacher in Sameli village of Dantewada in south Bastar, Sori’s life was far removed from politics. But all that changed when she was arrested in 2011 on charges of acting as a conduit for Maoists. In 2014, she joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). She tells SheThePeople.TV all about her journey.
“I had no interest in politics before going to jail. I really wanted to become a teacher which I did and I was content with that. But I had many people from my family who were a part of different parties like CPI, Congress. However, when I got back from jail, I realized how much I had to endure inside the prison. After that, the Chhattisgarh government exiled me and I had to move to Delhi, but I wanted to go back to my native place. So my well-wishers explained that the only way I can move back to Chhattisgarh without getting harmed again was by becoming a politician and so I joined AAP,” recollected Sori.
There are allegations against Chhattisgarh Police of torturing and sexually assaulting Sori during her jail term. In 2013, the apex court acquitted her in six of the eight cases filed against her due to lack of evidence. In Delhi, Sori got support from the likes of Prashant Bhushan, who co-founded AAP, and others. After Sori joined the party, party chief Arvind Kejriwal gave her ticket to stand in general elections from Bastar constituency in 2014, which she lost.
Family members in politics
Sori’s father Munda Ram is a former Indian National Congress leader who served as the sarpanch (elected village headman) of Bade Bedma village for over a decade. Her brother Sukhdev and his wife were also elected to the panchayat (village council) as Congress representatives. Two of her uncles were also Congress leaders, who served as MLAs in the state.
When I returned from prison, the only respite I gained was from the fact that there were a few people who believed my story that I was assaulted in jail. That support then grew from a few people to the whole country believing in me. Likewise, if we all support the women of Chhattisgarh and believe their stories of what they go through every day because of insurgency, they too can do wonders in politics
Sori believes that it is only with support from other politicians and influential people in our society that women from the rural belt like Bastar can aspire to join politics and make their voices heard in Parliament. “When I returned from prison, the only respite I gained was from the fact that there were a few people who believed my story that I was assaulted in jail. That support then grew from a few people to the whole country believing in me. Likewise, if we all support the women of Chhattisgarh and believe their stories of what they go through every day because of insurgency, they too can do wonders in politics. I didn’t become what I did all by my own. I just raised my voice against injustice, but there is a category of people who heard that voice and found truth in it,” she added.
If at that nobody had heard my voice and in fact curbed it, which a lot of people also tried to do, then I wouldn’t have reached this far, Sori said.