Panchali Ray


This essay is based on a series of interviews with Soni Sori, an activist, educationist, and a political figure, who has become the face of adivasi (tribal) resistance to state-corporate acquisition of community land for industry, in Chhattisgarh, India. Soni Sori, who is a prominent figure in the resistance movement against State atrocities on poor adivasi farmers, was accused of Left extremism, and subsequently arrested and sexually tortured in police custody. In her own words, this was to shame her into silence and prevent her from participating in public life, again. In this essay, I ask how does pain enter political discourses and animate the resistance around jal-jangal-zameen (water-forest-land). Soni’s post-rape narrative, where she embraces the identity of a raped woman, does not draw from a discourse on chastity or shame and dishonor; instead, she powerfully questions the dominant perceptions of rape as sexualised violence, which extinguishes the subject, either through silence or death. In fact, the discursive representation of the raped woman residing in the margins of society, in need of rehabilitation—the object of sympathy or the abject victim—the pathetic ‘other’, is central to both questions of justice in the legal realm, as well as healing processes. In this essay, I suggest that there are different modes of healing that do not necessarily draw from such patriarchal constructions of the subject, one of which is politicising the wound, rather than fetishising it. In this essay, I argue that moving from feelings of shame associated with loss of honour that primarily define the violated woman as a victim, to acknowledging pain and making it central to healing processes, can become a feminist response to hegemonic modes of understanding violations and seeking justice.

Author Biography

Panchali Ray is Assistant Professor, School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India. She researches and writes on labour, migration, violence, sexualities, and collective politics.