In 2016, when unidentified men attacked Soni Sori in Chhattisgarh's Bastar region, life did take a sudden pause. With a black acid-like liquid smeared on her face, she landed in the hospital for a couple of weeks. Today, after two years of dedicated work against fake encounters and sexual violence in the conflict zones in central India, she is one of the five recipients of the International Human Rights Award.
Recently, Ireland-based right group Front Line Defenders recognised her struggle to achieve justice for Adivasi people in Chhattisgarh. In an official announcement, Andrew Anderson, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, as he announced the winners in Dublin said,
The defenders we’re honouring today work in some of the most-dangerous areas of the world, sacrificing their own security to peacefully demand justice and human rights for their communities.
A teacher by profession, she was arrested for having alleged links with the Maoists in her state. After being locked up in the jail, she was physically and mentally abused by the cops, which made her protest for prisoner rights. This protest gained National and International attention, which ultimately led to her release. Soni was also elected to contest as a local candidate by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which she lost, but continued her work for the upliftment of her community, says FeminismIndia.
Soni is also known for her fight against Maoist groups when they wanted to destroy educational institutions, says a post by the Scroll. As an Adivasi activist, Soni has extensively worked for the justice of the Adivasi community in Chhattisgarh.
The other winners are Kurdish journalist and human rights defender Nurcan Baysal, Algerian League of Human Rights member and journalist Hassan Bouras, Peaceful Resistance of the Micro-Region of Ixquisis in Guatemala, and LUCHA, a youth movement formed in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo to fight corruption.
These awards are presented annually to human rights activists who have contributed in protecting and promoting the rights of their communities despite risks to their lives.