On 20 February, Saturday, Soni Sori, the tribal rights activist and leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Dantewada at south Bastar in Chhattisgarh, left Jagdalpur at 9 pm and headed home to Geedam. Her friends Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal, who had moved to Jagdalpur in 2013 and founded the Jagdalpur Legal Aid Group (JagLAG), had been served an eviction notice on Thursday, following the questioning of their landlord by the local police. On Saturday, they held a press conference about the police intimidation that had forced them out of Jagdalpur. Sori had come for the presser, and had stayed back to bid Gera and Khandelwal goodbye. “She wanted to stay back longer, but it was getting late,” Khandelwal told me, when I spoke to her on Sunday. Sori sat on the passenger seat of a motorcycle, behind her long-time friend, Rinki Thakur. It was a 70 kilometre journey westward on the national highway number 16.
“She was scared,” said Khandelwal. “We had received information that Soni might be attacked. But around here, we receive these kind of threats every other day. We were concerned too, but couldn’t possibly think that it was going to happen that very night.”
On their way home, the women were stopped by three men. “About 17 kilometres before Geedam, three of them came from behind on a motorcycle. They stopped us, and then they took Madam [Sori] a little away from me,” Thakur told me. Sori later told Thakur that one of the men held her hands behind her back, while the other applied a dark liquid substance on her face. Sori could not open her eyes, and felt that her face was burning. Fearing that it could be acid, they rushed to a local hospital in Geedam. It was grease oil—that may have been laced with corrosive substances. Thakur told me that the hospital authorities called an ambulance after treating Sori, and sent her to Maharani hospital back in Jagdalpur.