Soni Sori is the India you don’t know exists. She will both shatter you, and redeem your faith.
It was a masterclass in dignity, in resilience, in courage, and in belief in constitutional values – and it came from a woman who would be entitled to feel nothing but rage, anger, betrayal and disillusionment.
But then Soni Sori – who we were honoured to welcome to the Algebra stage on March 15 with a standing ovation – has demonstrated, time and again, that she is nothing short of extraordinary.
The facts of her life place her outside the orbit of our experience, outside of our very imagination. A tribal schoolteacher from the Dantewada district in Chhatisgarh, Soni was caught in the vicious crossfire between the Naxals and the State in 2011, and brutalised in ways that redefine the meaning of the word horror. She has been raped, had her vagina stuffed with stones, been falsely imprisoned – and later exonerated – but rather than be a faceless victim of an invisible war, she fought back, and continues to do so every single day. In an inspiring, heartbreaking conversation with Algebra’s Shoma Chaudhury, she spoke with candour and courage of why she didn’t pick up a gun, of what kept her going in her darkest hours, and why she still has faith in the constitution, even if she has none in the state itself.
When Algebra began, we promised members a collision with worlds you never encounter. Soni’s is that world, and it demands deeper engagement. This piece, back in 2011, is the best place to start, and we’d urge you to read, to think, to share.
Algebra, the Arts & Ideas Club brings together a fellowship of people who believe great cities are built not just on infrastructure but a life of the mind; who understand robust and liberal societies need the oxygen of great conversation and nuanced thinking.
At a time when we are increasingly surrounded by rage and noise, Algebra is a live and continuous space for people to come together for a genuine exchange of ideas and exposure to issues; where new seeds could be sparked, fresh perspectives formed, and intelligent connections made.
Algebra – the Arts and Ideas Club is designed to host almost 35 engagements over the year with topline thinkers and practitioners from almost every discipline that impacts human affairs: politics, economy, environment, spirituality, cinema, medicine, science, technology, music, media, literature, the arts, sports, people’s movements, et al.