Pipli gang rape puts Patnaik govt in dock

The alleged gang rape and attempt to murder of a Dalit girl at Pipli in coastal Puri district as well as a number of similar incidents in different parts of the state in the recent past have once again brought to the fore the deteriorating law and order situation in Odisha.

These incidents have also put a question mark on the safety and security of women in the state.

 All these crimes, particularly the one at Pipli have already become a major setback for the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) after the resignation of senior minister Pradip Maharathi in connection with the incident. He had been charged by the opposition and victim’s family of protecting the perpetrators of the crime.

  The Pipli incident has certainly thrown up several unanswered questions and one among them is why the then and now suspended officer in charge (OIC) of the local police station had refused to register a first information report (FIR) on the incident despite repeated pleas made by the victim’s family. This has made many to believe that the OIC was acting on the direction of Maharathi, the all powerful five time MLA from Pipli.

Strong  refutation
“Can a police officer dare not to register as sensitive and serious a crime as gang rape and attempt to murder if he was not being pressurised by somebody?”, the opposition parties had thundered during a series of agitations launched by them across the state soon after the incident came to light. The former minister, however, has strongly refuted all charges levelled against him. “I am prepared for any kind of investigation. If the charges are proved I will quit politics for ever”, said Maharathi, who was made a cabinet minister just eight months back after a long wait.

   The alleged gang rape took place in November last year. But the family members of the victim brought the incident to the notice of the agencies like the state women commission, the state human rights commission and the media only in the second week of January. This delay has provided enough room for many to presume that both parties - the victim’s family and those involved in the crime - were trying to chalk out a compromise with possible mediation of the local police.

   It is significant to note here that a few days after the gang rape case came to light, some of the local villagers in the Pipli village where the alleged crime had taken place had petitioned the district authorities claiming that the victim and the prime accused in the case were known to each other and the latter was a frequent visitor to the former’s house.

   Similarly, the victim’s family members’ refusal to accept medical advise to shift the patient to a better health facility like the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi for better treatment has also puzzled many. Perhaps the judicial probe already announced by the state government into the sensational incident would throw some light on these important questions.

 While the recent spurt in the gang rape cases has provided sufficient fodder to the opposition parties to lambast the BJD government, particularly chief minister Naveen Patnaik who heads the home department, it has also triggered resentment in the ruling party.

 Many BJD members in private conversations maintain that the image of the regional outfit and the government has been affected because of the inefficiency and callous attitude of the police. “There could be political interference in one or two instances but in a majority of the cases relating to atrocities against women, the police have been found wanting while performing their duties.

The perpetrators of the crimes against women are getting encouraged only because of casual attitude of the police who it seems have forgotten to take timely action”, lamented a senior leader who did not want to be quoted.

 Realising the gravity of the situation, Patnaik has already chaired a high level meeting of the senior police and home department officials who included the Director General of the Police, Harmohan Praharaj.

After the meeting the chief minister announced that the officers in charge of all the police stations across the state had already been directed to register the women atrocities cases without any delay and launch immediate action to nab the culprits. “Defaulters will be dealt with stringently”, he said. It remains to be seen whether the chief minister’s strong words will have an impact on the grounds or not.  

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