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Will Maoists red flag Soni Sori's Tiranga Yatra in Bastar?

Rajkumar Soni | Updated on: 23 July 2016, 22:33 IST

Since the Maoists believe the country has still not achieved freedom, they don't allow for the hoisting of tricolour in the areas under their influence.

In the eyes of the police, Soni Sori subscribes to the same ideology.

But the fiery social activist and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader is about to embark on a yatra that will take the tricolour flag to every nook and corner of Maoist-affected regions in Bastar.

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Sori's journey, christened as Bastar Kranti Yatra, will begin on 9 August. Besides JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, Rohith Vemula's mother Radhika Vemula and Akhlaq's wife Ikraman have also been invited to participate in the yatra.

The nationalism debate rages on

Far from TV studios of the national capital, Bastar has witnessed a different kind of debate over nationalism after SRP Kalluri took over as Inspector General (IG) of the district. Most are questioning is the insurgents will allow Sori to hoist the national flag or if the police will ban her proposed yatra on charges of inciting villagers.

Sori, during her journey, also plans to install monuments of Ambedkar and tribal icon Birsa Munda. This is in sharp contrast to how Naxals in the area have been targeting the statues of police jawans killed in anti-Naxal operations. The police, in turn, have destroyed memorials built by red ultras.

It remains to be seen how the police and the Maoists will react to Sori's initiative.

The police have registered several cases against Sori for allegedly supporting the Naxal cause. She has faced inhumane torture during police custody, causing a huge outcry across the country and outside. However, no charges have been proved against her so far. The court acquitted her in five cases. In a sixth case, the decision is still awaited.

The yatra

Among those who will accompany Sori in the yatra are: Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan leaders Nand Kashyap and Alok Shukla; the state president of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Lakhan Singh; AAP state convener Sanket Thakur; the State Secretary of CPI (M-L) - Red Star Saura Yadav; tribal activists Linga Kodopi; Dantewada Journalists Committee members Kamal Shukla and Prabhat Singh; the Raigarh Mahila Manch activist Rinchin; Bastar Legal Aid members Isha Khandelwal, Shalini Gera and thousands of activists of the Jan Mukti Morcha.

The yatra itself with conclude on 15 August at Dantewada's Gompad, where Sori planned to celebrate Independence Day by hoisting the national flag. It is the same area where a tribal girl Madkam Hidme was recently killed by security forces on dubious allegations that she was a hardcore Maoist.

"This yatra also seeks to highlight the plight of the residents of around 150 villages of Gompad who have been deprived of their basic human rights. The tribals from Dantewada to Gompad are forced to lead a miserable life. The country, as well as the world, must be aware of the tricks that the police is playing in this region in the name of eradication of Maoists," Sori said.

Branded a troublemaker

In 2007, Sori had been threatened by Naxals to not hoist the national flag on Independence Day. At the time, she had been working in an ashram in Jabeli village in the Kuakonda region of Dantewada.

Sori had replied by stating, "If Chandra Shekhar Azad could unfurl the tricolour to protest against the foreign rule, why can't I do the same."

This answer had two effects. One, it dissuaded the Maoists from entering the village again. Second, it led many to believe that the insurgents abide by Sori's words. When the word reached the police headquarters, Sori was asked to become an informer. When she refused, she was branded as a Naxalite.

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First published: 23 July 2016, 22:33 IST