Where is Sodi Sambho?

Raipur: Sodi Sambho was last seen in public on January 3 this year, when the Chhattisgarh Police intercepted her as she was en route to Delhi to receive treatment for a bullet wound.

Since then, neither the press nor her lawyer has been able to access her.

Ms. Sambho is a key witness in a petition filed in the Supreme Court which alleges that security forces fired upon and killed nine Adivasis in a ‘sanitisation operation’ at Gompad village, Dantewada district on October 1 2009.

“The police have not allowed me to speak to Ms. Sambho,” said her lawyer, Colin Gonzalves, “The Superintendent of Police, Dantewada, Ambreesh Mishra, offered to let me meet her relatives but consistently deflected my attempts to meet her. However, the police have no right to intervene between a petitioner and her lawyer.”

Earlier, concerned at her disappearance, the lawyer filed an application in the Supreme Court, alleging that the Chhattisgarh police was interfering in Ms. Sambho’s medical treatment.

On January 7, the Supreme Court directed the police “not to interfere, in any manner whatsoever …in her coming to Delhi for her medical treatment.”

On January 10, SP Dantewara Ambreesh Misra told The Hindu that his information suggested that Ms. Sambho was scheduled to arrive in Delhi the same day, but refused to provide confirmation.

“Sodi Sambho is neither under arrest nor in police custody or surveillance,” said N. Baijendra Kumar, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister. “As a private citizen, she is free to travel as she pleases.”

Speaking on condition of anonymity, doctors at the Raipur Medical College told The Hindu that Ms. Sambho had been examined in the hospital the following day and was referred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. But enquiries at the office of the Medical Superintendent at the AIIMS showed no record of her ever being admitted to the hospital.

So where is she?

“Ms. Sambho has been admitted at the AIIMS. I instructed SP Dantewara to accompany her,” confirmed Directorate-General of Police for Chhattisgarh, Viswarajan, on Tuesday night in sharp contradiction to all prior statements issued by the police.

When asked why the AIIMS had no record of admitting her, he said, “She must be in a private room.”

However, the Chhattisgarh Police’s complete control over her movements is a major cause for concern for her lawyers.

Colin Gonzalves, her lawyer, stated that, as per his information, some of the 13 petitioners in the Gompad incident have been taken into police custody and might be pressured to change their statements.

First published in The Hindu at: http://www.hindu.com/2010/01/13/stories/2010011361401300.htm#

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