Sheila Didi, a women’s activist from India, has been arrested and tortured. Women Activists of India are calling for her release.
Sheila Didi is a popular women’s activist among the most deprived women of Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar. She was the former President of Nari Mukti Sangh, Bihar.
Sheila Didi was arrested on 7 October 2006 at Aamjhor Village under the police limits of Lathikata, Sundargarh district of Orissa. The police accused her of waging war against the state. After the arrest they immediately shifted her to a nearby CRPF camp where she was physically and psychologically tortured for two days. Later she was taken before a magistrate court which allowed four more days of police custody. She was once again tortured, sustaining injuries to her forehead, stomach, legs and the soles of her feet. She was blindfolded and constantly moved from one place to the other. She was interrogated by teams of police from West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
Since then she has been incarcerated in Rourkela prison. Her health has deteriorated as she has been denied any medical care. She has not been allowed access to books, newspapers or writing materials. After she was given bail in all existing cases on 11th July 2007 she was arrested again as soon as she came out of prison with further allegations.
Sheila Didi belongs to a poor Adivasi family. A woman of courage and conviction, she was convinced about the need for building up a strong women’s movement as she felt that women in India had to fight every step for their rights and freedom, to do away with the customs and traditions that treat them as inferior , as second class citizens. It was for these reasons that she founded Nari Mukti Sangh.
Nari Mukti Sangh soon developed into a strong women’s organization. Thousands of the most deprived women today are conscious about their rights thanks to their work. The organization has consistently fought all forms of patriarchy and resisted any kind of exploitation, domination or discrimination.
Women Activists of India commented: "The condition of women in our country is so pathetic and wretched that if they stand on their own legs in order to move ahead in their lives, patriarchic oppression along with all kinds of attacks of the contemporary society will brow beat them to submission. It is in this context that Sheila Didi has evolved as a valiant and uncompromising leader of the oppressed women and waged several struggles for the betterment of their lives in these regions. It is highly deplorable and is a grim reflection of all of our sensitivity that this women’s activist who has emerged from the most oppressed rungs of Adivasi life and who worked day in and out to awaken thousands of oppressed women, has been incarcerated in the jail".
Women Activists of India are urging people to sign their petition to demand that Sheila Didi be released immediately and unconditionally and ensure that she receives proper medical care and relief. They are also demanding that she be treated as a Political Prisoner as they argue she has been arrested and incarcerated for her convictions to fight for women’s rights.