It is with great dismay and outrage that PUDR condemns the award of President’s Police medal to Dantewada Superintendent Ankit Garg. He is the officer accused by Soni Sori of having inflicted grave sexual violence upon her while she was in his custody in Dantewada. Soni Sori is an adivasi teacher who was indicted for having Maoist links and arrested in October 2011. Soni Sori’s case is pending before the Supreme Court under whose direction her medical examination was done outside Chhattisgarh and severe sexual torture was established. Pebbles were found in her private parts and were produced before the Supreme Court.
It is pertinent to note here that Ankit Garg has been awarded this medal for an encounter in Mahasamnad district of Chhattisgarh in 2009 in which eight alleged Maoists were killed. Of these eight, two were innocent village residents, including one who was speech and hearing impaired and was shot dead inside his house. Thus even the alleged bravery is dubious.
It is baffling and shameful to see that instead of taking any serious note of the charges, or initiating action against the perpetrator of such heinous sexual torture, the Government of India decides to award a gallantry medal to him. It is indicative of the utter disrespect and disregard that the Indian government has for the weakest citizens of this country like the adivasis, women, Dalits and Muslims. PUDR considers this award to SP Ankit Garg as an encouragement to the continued use of sexual violence as a tool to punish women whom the police and the government see as offenders or as belonging to the enemy. This is not the first such occurrence in Chattisgarh. Many adivasi women have faced similar violations by the Salwa Judum, CRPF and police but what is astonishing is the naked show of support for an officer accused of ordering such sexual torture. It is yet again a reminder of the deep patriarchal structure that the Indian State continues to work in.
PUDR therefore demands immediate retraction of the award and an apology from the Government of India for having displayed utter disregard towards the oppression of a citizen by a State official.
Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan