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Archives for : Chhattisgarh

#India -Tribal Activist Soni Sori- Can the State drown the fight for justice for women ? #Vaw

: Q&A with Indian tribal rights activist Soni Sori


In a crowded auditorium at a conference on gender-based violence in Delhi this month, a frail woman sits, silently listening as lawyers and activists take turns to speak. When the discussion shifts to atrocities on adivasi (tribal) women, she takes center stage. When she speaks, the crowd listens in silence. Soni Sori, a schoolteacher, speaks about the fate of women in Chhattisgarh, an Indian state that has been engulfed in violence and conflict, with tribal civilians caught in the crossfire between Maoists and government security forces.

Within this mineral-rich Indian state, the genesis of conflict has been complex. It is a mix of deep neglect of the poor and also, some would say, lopsided development plans. But beyond simplistic explanations of conflict, undeniable is the loss of lives and brutality unleashed in the name of counterinsurgency and fighting for the poor. For years, women and children have born the brunt of this cruelty.

In 2013, at least 1,380 rapes were reported in Chhatisgarh, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau. The controversial and now-disbanded Salwa Judum, a self-protection force formed with local civilians and later declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2011, face at least 99 counts of alleged rape since its inception in 2005.

It was against this backdrop that Soni Sori, all of 35, was arrested in 2011 and accused of being linked to the Naxals, an armed, left-wing extremist group that has waged war against the Indian state for decades. She was sexually tortured in custody. Human rights activists worldwide campaigned for her release. Amnesty International declared her a “prisoner of conscience,” turning the spotlight on atrocities she’d been subjected to. Now out on bail, Sori spoke to me about the inhumane sexual torture she endured, the dismal state of women’s prisons in Chhattisgarh, her fight ahead, and her optimism on women’s rights.

Indian tribal rights activist Soni Sori speaks to Amnesty International India about her case and thanks the organization for its support in advocating for her release. (Amnesty International India)

Priyali Sur: It’s been almost three years since you were first taken into police custody. Do you remember every detail?

Soni Sori: It was past 10 at night. I was asleep when the cops came and woke me up, saying the superintendent of police wanted to meet me. The superintendent, Ankit Garg, asked me to sign documents that would confirm I was involved with the Maoists. I refused. He then asked the lady constables to leave, warning them that what happened inside the police station that night should not be told to anyone.

The police officials started abusing me, calling me a whore and saying I indulge in sexual acts with Maoists. They stripped me naked, made me stand in an “attention” position and gave me electric shocks on various parts of my body. I still didn’t relent. They then shoved red chili powder inside my vagina. By now, I was losing consciousness, but I refused to sign the documents. The cops started inserting stones into my private parts. Many stones—so many that they started falling out. I finally collapsed.

The next morning, I could barely move when I was taken to court. My biggest complaint is that the magistrate didn’t even see me once and sent me to prison. In the days that followed, I was admitted to the hospital, where they chained me to the bed. When I asked why, they said it was procedural. Due to the stones, it was difficult and painful for me to even urinate. Only after I wrote to the court was I taken for treatment.

Sori was ultimately referred to the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata, where stones were removed from her vagina and rectum. But her torture and humiliation in the prison continued. In April 2013, a group of human rights organizations wrote to the Chhattisgarh chief minister, demanding the end of ill treatment of Soni Sori and other inmates in Jagdalpur, the central jail. They said Sori was being subjected to a psychiatric evaluation to declare her mentally unsound and create doubts over the veracity of her complaints of sexual torture.

PS: How long were you in prison and what is it like for the women inmates inside jail?

SS: I spent two and a half years in all, and spent time in four jails [Tihar, Raipur, Jagadalpur, and Kolkata]. The plight of girls and women is deplorable inside the Chhattisgarh jail. There is an urgent need for proper health care and sanitation. During their menstruation, women inmates are not given any sanitary pads. They have just one piece of cloth, which they wash and reuse as a pad. At times, due to the unavailability of pads and clean cloth, many even have blood trickling down their knees. It is extremely humiliating. Due to such unhygienic conditions, most women suffer from vaginal discharge, problems like “safed paani” [vaginal discharge] and foul-smelling urine. Women keep waiting to visit a doctor, but they are only taken after a very long wait.

The way women inmates are treated is inhuman. They are themselves made to clean the toilets and if anyone complains, the cops beat her up and put her in an isolated cell. No woman is allowed to keep more than one sari. If families send them more, the cops burn the extra sari. They are made to do hard labor but given a poor diet. If a mother dares to ask for more for her crying child, she is beaten up.

PS: Are the inmates also sexually abused by the police?

SS: The inmates are mentally tortured and harassed. A naked drill is a common thing. I was tired of being asked to strip again and again and again. They would strip me and accuse me of being a Maoist. …  They would then humiliate me by inspecting my breasts with their batons and forcing me to spread my legs. It’s a mental torture. Not just me, but they do this to other women inmates as well. There are many minor girls as well inside, but they are falsely recorded as majors in the files. Many 13- to 14-year-old girls are brought in and accused of being Naxals.

According to Himanshu Kumar of Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, an organization working for tribal people in Chhattisgarh, grave human rights violations are taking place in the prisons of Chhattisgarh. Himanshu has been fighting for justice for Sori. He says that the International Committee of the Red Cross has access to all the prisons across the world to carry out human right audits, but has been denied access to Chhattisgarh prisons. The state has been seen as the epicenter of Maoist conflict for a long time.

In February, after almost two and a half years in jail, Sori was finally granted bail by the Supreme Court of India. She is free to go anywhere but has to report to the nearest police station every Monday, regardless of the location. Sori now wants to work from Chhattisgarh, along with a human rights lawyer, to help other women who have been falsely accused and are languishing in prisons. According to the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2011, Chhattisgarh was one of the states that reported the highest number of female convicts (242) in its central jails. The women’s prisons here are overcrowded, with almost 150 percent occupancy. But along with this, Sori’s priority is also her children—her two daughters and one son.

PS: Now that you are out on bail, do you worry about separation from your family again?

SS: My children refuse to let go of me at all. They say this year they will stay with me since they don’t know when I might be taken to jail again. Every other day, jeeps packed with cops come to my house and question my children at gunpoint, but my children are strong and aren’t scared. My children say, “Let the police come, we can handle them.” Everything that they have been through has made my children strong.

When I was in jail, my husband passed away. I wasn’t even allowed to come for his last rites. I appealed to the court to let me go home to see him for one last time, but they didn’t permit me. One week later, they said I could go and visit home. I refused, saying it was too late.

During India’s recent general elections, Sori ran from her region. She says her decision to join politics is so she can challenge and change the system that treats women mercilessly. She remembers how the jail officials mocked her, saying that once she was out, her spirit would die. She says joining politics is an answer to all those people who challenged her.

Sori lost the election by a huge margin.

PS: You entered politics—are you disappointed that you lost?

SS: Not at all. I believe I have won, and my fight has just started. My fight was not to occupy the chair, but to get the support of my people. Today, there are many who will come and stand by me. The rulers always rule from their chair. I am fortunate that I will get to work at the grassroots level. My politics is not about ruling, but about fighting for the rights of my people.

PS: Is it difficult to stay motivated and focused on your mission?

SS: There are days when my children have nothing to eat. I don’t have a job today while Ankit Garg, who has been accused of brutalizing me, has been awarded with the president’s Police Medal of Gallantry. But it’s my children who give me the courage to fight. They are all I have today. My fight is not about caste or religion but about the rights of all women.

I know there are many who are waiting for me to die for this fight to end, but I want to tell them that if Soni Sori dies the fight will not end. There will be a hundred more Soni Soris who will emerge. Can they drown the fight for justice for women? Can they kill each one of us? In the end, victory will be ours.

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Chhattisgarh highest incidence of poverty: C Rangarajan panel

 Jul 8, 2014, 08.34PM IST

NEW DELHI: Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Assam figure among the poorest states where over 40 per cent of people are below poverty line, according to the C Rangarajan panel.

According to the report of the panel headed by formerPMEAC Chairman C Rangarajan, 47.9 per cent people are poor in Chhattisgarh followed by 46.7 per cent in Manipur and 45.9 per cent in Odisha in 2011-12.

The poor population was 44.3 per cent in Madhya Pradesh, 42.4 per cent in Jharkhand, 41.3 per cent Bihar and 40.9 per cent in Assam.

The Planning Commission in June 2012 had constituted the expert group under Rangarajan to review theSuresh Tendulkar Committee methodology for estimating poverty, following an uproar over the number of poor in the country.

The expert group which has recently submitted its report on poverty to Planning Minister Rao Inderjit Singh, has pegged the population of poor at 29.5 per cent in the country for 2011-12, higher than 21.9 per cent estimated on basis of Tendulkar Committee methodology.

As per the report, Goa is the most prosperous state as it has least proportion of 6.3 per cent poor population. The state has very little rural poverty at 1.4 per cent.

The report further revealed that urban poverty is the highest in the country at staggering 73.4 per cent of the city population.

Among the other states, Bihar has high incidence of urban poverty at 50.8 per cent, meaning that every second person living in cities is poor.

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Another Bastar village bans non-Hindu religious activities, govt sits idle #WTFnews

TNN | Jul 8, 2014, 01.59AM IST

RAIPUR: Amid controversy over right wing groups motivating gram sabhas or village councils to adopt resolutions banning non-Hindu religious activities in villages in tribal Bastar, Chhattisgarh government seem to be adopting wait and watch policy on how to deal with the situation.

Yet another village, Belar in Lohandiguda block of Bastar district, convened its gram sabha on Sunday and passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities. On May 10, gram sabha at village Sirisguda in Tongpal block convened under the provisions of 129 (G) of Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act, adopted a similar resolution banning non-Hindu missionaries. The resolution stated that “To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.”

Bastar’s district Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) president Suresh Yadav claimed that village councils of more than 50 gram panchayats has already adopted such resolutions to ban outsider missionaries from their respective villages.

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CBI initiates PEs against Chhattisgarh business groups for iron ore export

TNN | Jun 24, 2014,

NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation has initiated 11 preliminary enquiries against nine Chhattisgarh business groups for allegedly exporting iron ore worth Rs 72 crore meant for consumption in domestic market.

CBI sources said the agency has started these inquiries for alleged duty evasion in the exports of 7.28 lakh metric tonnes of iron ore from Kolkata during 2008-11. Officials say that some customs officials are also under the scanner for conniving with these private companies.

The sources refused to share details of Chhattisgarh based business groups which have been named as it is still the initial stage and disclosure of the names could hamper further investigations.

The sources said rates of iron ore for consumption in domestic market are less because of relaxation in duty whereas for exports these are on higher side.

The agency alleged that these business houses claimed that iron ore was for domestic consumption but allegedly exported it to various countries from Kolkata port in collusion with customs officials.

Earlier as well, CBI has been probing cases of iron ore export in different states including Karnataka and West Bengal.

In 2012, a multi-disciplinary investigation including by CBI into iron ore export had revealed a massive fraud by several mining companies by showing transport of iron ore for exports through railways as movement for domestic consumption.

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Personnel Death in Naxal Attack Not Human Rights Violation: CRPF #WTFnews

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has declined to share information on the death of its personnel in Naxal attacks in Bihar and Chhattisgarh, saying there was no “violations of human rights”.

The CRPF, which is mandated to disclose information only related to human rights violation and corruption cases under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, also said there was no public interest warranted in disclosing the information related to their killings.

“There appears to be no violation of human rights as well as facts of the case do not attract the allegations of corruption. Moreover, there is no public interest to disclose such type of information,” the CRPF said in reply to an RTI query.

Exercising his Right to Information, Venkatesh Nayak had sought details of two incidents–killing of two personnel in Bihar’s Munger district on April 10 and death of six CRPF men in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region on April 12–involving the deaths of CRPF personnel in Bihar and Chhattisgarh.

The copies of intelligence reports, which was also sought by the applicant, were sent to Bihar and Chhattisgarh governments on these two incidents.

“Moreover, you are seeking reports related to incidents or intelligence report which are related to national security and exempted to be disclosed under Section 8 (1) (a),” it said.

The Section bars disclosure of information which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence.

“CRPF has refused to accept that murders of its personnel serving in Bihar and Chhattisgarh amount to a violation of their right to life. They are not even disclosing information about compensation to be paid (or already paid) to the families and also inquiry reports into the incidents,” said Nayak, Programme Coordinator, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.

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Green Nobel winner Ramesh Agrawal awaits unravelling of plot to kill him in Chhattisgarh in 2012

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 – 11:21pm IST | Agency: DNA

Activist Ramesh Agrawal, 56, is among the six people who will be awarded the prestigious Goldman Environment Prize. However, two years after he was shot at immediately after he managed to stop Jindal Steel and Power Limited’s coal mining project in Raigarh district, Chhattisgarh, the police and courts have been unable to unravel the bigger conspiracy behind the attack.

The Chhattisgarh police have filed a charge sheet in the case in which seven people, including a Jindal employee, a retired army brigadier, KK Chopra and his associate SN Panigrahi, who run a security agency, Superior Fire and Security Service, which provides security for Jindal Steel and Power Limited in Raigarh, have been named. The main attacker, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, is still absconding. Chopra and Panigrahi are out on bail while the Jindals have repeatedly denied all allegations against the company.

Local activists and Agrawal alleged that the attack was carried out at the behest of Naveen Jindal in 2012. Agrawal alleged that Jindal is influencing the case because of which the larger conspiracy behind the attack is not being unraveled.

Agrawal, who is currently in San Francisco for the award ceremony, had managed to stall the multi-million mining project of Jindal Steel and Power Limited, citing lacunae in environmental clearances and alleged farce public hearings, mandatory for such projects. Before that, Agrawal was incarcerated for two months in 2010 when Jindal filed a defamation case, alleging that Agrawal defamed the company during his public meeting with the villagers.

The attackers shot Agrawal in his groin and thigh in 2012. Two years later, he still has a steel rod installed in his femur and a cane to support him while walking.

“The local police is trying to dilute the case even in court so that the witnesses and accused do not point at Naveen Jindal on whose instance the attack was carried out. The main conspirator is still absconding and witnesses record statements sluggishly. Jindal is trying hard to ensure that people even remotely associated with him are not indicted in the case,” alleged Rajesh Tripathi, another activist from Raigarh, who is fighting for the rights of tribals and protection of environment.

The Goldman annual prize honours outstanding grassroots environmentalists who have made sustained and significant efforts, even at great personal risk, to protect and enhance the natural environment. The individual cash prize is $175,000. Agrawal won the prize along with five other activists across the globe.

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Chhattisgarh HC upholds Special Public Security Act #WTFnews

Official seal of Chhattisgarh


Last Updated: Saturday, April 26, 2014, 23:32
Bilaspur: The Chhattisgarh High Court on Saturday dismissed a public interest litigation filed by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties challenging the validity of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005.

The division bench of Chief Justice Yatindra Singh and Justice Prashant Mishra held that the Act, enacted by the Chhattisgarh government for “protecting the state and its citizen”, is valid, and does not infringe upon the fundamental rights of the citizens.

Interestingly, the court also observed that the Maoist movement had deviated from its original goals and was involved in killing innocents and extorting money, which was a roadblock for the development of the state.

PUCL had argued that the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967 was sufficient for curbing the insurgency, and there was no need for a special law, and the state could not have made a legislation on this subject.

But the state, represented by the advocate general, said it had the right to enact such a legislation because it fell in the domain of “public security”.


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Chhattisgarh- teenage girls proclaim love, police in dilemma #homosexuality


,TNN | Apr 20, 2014, 08.20 PM IST

RAIPUR: Soon after Supreme Court recognized transgender as a third gender, it seems Chhattisgarh‘s transgender have started gathering courage to confront the reality in society. A case of two teenaged girls who claim to be in love with each other has put Raigarh police in a dilemma.
As the case comprises of minor girls and homosexuality, the girls have been handed over to child welfare committee and are now undergoing counseling, in charge of Raigarh Kotwali RK Mishra told Times Of India.
Narrating the story, Mishra said the case came to light when the 15-year-old went missing from her home and parents registered a missing report a few days ago. “During investigation, police found that one close friend of hers, who is aged 17, was also missing. Police traced both girls to Jashpur and handed them back to their parents. But the twist in story came when both of them approached police and appealed to allow them to live together as they were both in a relationship,” Mishra said.
The minor girls had grown up together as friends in same locality at Deendayalpuram and when their families objected to their proximity, they eloped. The girls complained that after knowing about their relationship, their parents have started harassing them and forcing them into captivity.
Officials at Child Welfare Committee (CWC) have kept the girls under their custody at separate places and are counseling them. According to Jessi Phillip, chairperson CWC, both girls need counseling while they insist that they want to stay together as friends.
Transgender activist Vikas Rajput said that it was too early for teenaged girls to decide about whom they would like to spend their life with. “Counseling is the best pill for them right now. Had they been 18-years-old, they could have approached police and have chosen their life partner,” he said.
According to police, after resistance from family, the younger girl had attempted suicide in past and has requested her family to allow her to spend her life with her friend if they can’t permit their marriage. Police said that parents of both girls have been adamant with their versions and wouldn’t allow them to live together.
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Maoists apologize for deaths of civilians in Chhattisgarh attacks

Maoists say attack on bus near Kutru of Bijapur was a serious mistake
Maoists apologize for deaths of civilians in Chhattisgarh attacks

Seven members of a polling team and five CRPF men were among 14 persons killed on 12 April when Naxals had struck twice in a gap of less than an hour, blowing up a bus and an ambulance in Bijapur and Bastar districts of Chhattisgarh. Photo: AFP
Raipur: The Communist Party of India (Maoist) has apologized for the death of nine civilians, including 7 polling personnel, in landmine blasts triggered by their cadres in Chhattisgarh over the weekend and termed it as a “serious mistake”.
PLGA cadres attacked a bus near Kutru of Bijapur suspecting security personnel were travelling in it. It was a serious mistake on our part and we apologise for it publicly,” spokesperson of Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee of Maoist Gudsa Usendi said in press release circulated to local media.
People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) is the military wing of CPI (Maoists). The committee is an arm of the banned outfit whose members are active in Chhattisgarh, parts of Odisha and Maharashtra.
“We express our condolence to the families of the slain polling personnel as well as other civilians (an ambulance driver and a paramedic),” he said. “It’s an irreparable loss and we know asking for apology wouldn’t bring them back. But I want to clarify to their family members that they were not our enemies and they fall under our “friends category”. They died due to our carelessness and mistake,” Usendi said.
“We appeal to the family members of those killed or injured, teachers and employees (polling staff), people and human rights organisations to realise we did not deliberately attack them. It was a mistake and it shouldn’t be seen as violation of human rights,” the spokesman added.
He asked government employees and journalists not to travel with police or in their vehicles, and told private vehicle operators to desist from ferrying security personnel in the conflict zone.
Seven members of a polling team and five CRPF men were among 14 persons killed on 12 April when Naxals had struck twice in a gap of less than an hour, blowing up a bus and an ambulance in Bijapur and Bastar districts of the state.
The Naxals had attacked the polling team near Ketulnar village under Kutru police station limits of Bijapur when it was returning after voting in the region on 10 April. In the second incident, the extremists blew up an ambulance carrying CRPF personnel near Kamanar village under Darbha police station in Bastar. Five CRPF men, the ambulance driver and a paramedic technician were killed in the raid.
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Jindal Hospital denies to give dead body to relatives, for not paying money #WTFnews


80 हजार के लिए शव को बनाया बंधक


80 हजार के लिए शव को बनाया बंधक
Raigarh, Sat Mar 29 2014, 08:33 AM

 यगढ़। सीएसआर मद से बनाए गए जिंदल के फोर्टिस हास्पिटल प्रबंधन ने 80 हजार रूपए जमा नहीं करने पर मरीज की लाश को ही बंधक बना लिया। पीडित परिवार के द्वारा अस्पताल प्रबंधन से काफी मिन्नत की गई कि मानवता के नाते लाश को उन्हें सौंप दिया जाए, ताकि वे उसका अंतिम संस्कार कर सके, लेकिन अस्पताल प्रबंधन बकाया बिल की वसूली के लिए अड़ा रहा। ऎसे में पीडित परिजन लाश को अस्पताल के कब्जे से छुड़वाने के लिए कलक्टर से गुहार लगाने पहुंचे थे। कलक्टर ने सीएचएमओ को जांच के लिए कहा है।

इस संबंध में कलेक्टरेट पहुंचे श्यामलाल चौहान ने बताया कि वह जांजगीर-चांपा के सक्ती विकास खंड अंतर्गत छपोरा गांव निवासी हैं। उसके बड़े भाई गोरे लाल की तबियत अचानक खराब हो गई। ऎसे में उनका स्थानीय अस्पताल में उपचार कराया गया। यहां तबियत में सुधार नहीं होने पर वह बीमार बड़े भाई को लेकर शहर के पतरापाली स्थित जिंदल के सीएसआर मद से बनाए गए अस्पताल पहुंचा। यहां उसे 21 मार्च को भर्ती कराया गया।

श्याम लाल चौहान का कहना था कि जिस दिन उसके भाई को भर्ती किया गया, उसी दिन अस्पताल प्रबंधन ने कैश काउंटर पर 80 हजार रूपए जमा करवाने की बात कही। अस्पताल प्रबंधन की मांग के अनुसार पैसे कम थे। ऎसे में उसने रिश्ते-नातेदारों से कर्ज लेकर पैसा जमा करवाया। इसके बाद उपचार शुरू हुआ। उपचार के दौरान 27 मार्च को उसकी मृत्यु हो गई। इसके बाद उससे फिर 80 हजार रूपए की मांग की गई। इसे देने में जब श्याम लाल ने असमर्थता जताई तो उसके बड़े भाई की लाश को देने से इंकार कर दिया गया।

रूपए नहीं तो ईलाज नहीं
श्याम लाल चौहान ने अस्पताल प्रबंधन पर यह भी आरोप लगाया है कि भर्ती करने के दिन 80 हजार रूपए जमा करवाया गया था। इसके बाद उपचार के बीच में फिर से 80 हजार जमा करवाने की बात कही गई। पैसा जमा नहीं करने पर उपचार नहीं किए जाने की बात कही गई। उसका आरोप है कि दूसरे किश्त के 80 हजार रूपए जमा नहीं करवाने पर अस्पताल प्रबंधन के द्वारा उपचार बंद कर दिया गया। इसकी वजह से उसके भाई की मृत्यु हो गई।

पहले भी ऎसा बर्ताव
सीएसआर मद से बनवाए इस अस्पताल में इससे पहले भी रूपए नहीं देने पर लाश को बंधक बना लिया गया था। इसके बाद तत्कालीन कलक्टर अमित कटारिया को इस मामले में हस्तक्षेप करना पड़ा था। इसी तरह एक माह पहले भी अस्पताल प्रबंधन के द्वारा संजीवनी सहायता कोष से एक पीडित का उपचार करने से इंकार कर दिया गया था।


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