Thursday, January 19, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Dalit girl gangrape: Odisha minister compares self to Lal Bahadur Shastri

Dalit girl gangrape: Odisha minister compares self to Lal Bahadur Shastri

Debabrata Mohanty Posted online: Fri Jan 20 2012, 12:13 hrs
Bhubaneswar : When Odisha agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy,
invoked the name of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri as the
"inspiration" behind his resignation on moral grounds yesterday, there
were loud guffaws in the state's political circles.

Maharathy, who was accused of harbouring some of the rape accused in
the alleged gangrape of a 18-year-old dalit girl, finally put down his
papers amid increasing demand of Opposition parties and women's
organisations for his scalp.

The 18-year-old dalit girl of Arjunagoda village in Pipili block of
Puri district was allegedly gangraped by some local youth on November
28, 2011 when she had gone out for morning ablutions. After the
gangrape, the assailants allegedly tried to strangulate her, which
left the girl's cerebral cortex damaged leaving her in a state of

"I resigned to save my party and the image of my chief minister like
Lal Bahadur Shastri resigned after rail mishap. I am not a coward, I
am a stalwart. I am ready to face any inquiry," Maharathy said after
his resignation.

Politicians and political observers said Maharathy comparing himself
to Shastri could not be more ludicrous considering that Maharathy has
the maximum number of criminal cases pending against him among all the
147 MLAs.

"It is the most laughable comparison I have heard in long time. How
can Maharathy compare himself to Shastri? Maharathy has the maximum
number of criminal cases pending against him among all the sitting
MLAs. Shastri resigned on moral grounds immediately after the railway
mishap in Mahboobnagar while Maharathy had to be forced out by CM. If
at all anyone has to resign, it is the CM who should resign," said
state BJP vice-president Ashok Sahu.

Noted political commentator Rabi Das also questioned the comparison to
Shastri. "What moral ground is he talking about? It would have been
more appropriate had he resigned from the membership of Odisha
Assembly as he failed in his duties to protect a hapless Dalit girl,"
said Das.

Though at one point he had 57 criminal cases against him, Maharathy
had 20 cases pending against him under several sections of Indian
Penal Code and Criminal Procedure by the time he filed his nomination
for 2009 Assembly election. He has been accused of offences like
attempt to murder, molestation, rioting, theft, criminal intimidation
and dacoity but yet to be convicted in any of the cases.

Pipili, a picturesque rural area of Puri district known for its
applique work, from where Maharathy has won 5 Assembly elections is a
scene of blood and gore. In 1986, Maharathy's principal opponent and
Congress candidate Judhistir Samantray, a tall man with looks of a
feudal lord, lost his left eye allegedly at the hands of Maharathy's

As Samantray, then the chairman of Pipili Panchayat Samiti, was coming
back home on a rainy day in 1986, a men alleged to be Maharathy's men
chased him with arms and swords. Though Samantray escaped with his
life but he lost his left eye to the attack. Over the years Pipili has
seen violence between Maharathy and Samantray spiral over the years.

A year after Samantray lost his left eye, his supporters gouged out
the eyes Maharathy's two supporters while they were going to watch a
village fair. Maharathy's supporters hit back in 1991 when they threw
country-made bombs on Congress functionary of Delang block killing him
on the spot. A year later, on April 18, Maharathy's brothers allegedly
threw bombs on Samantray's younger brother Surendra who died on the
spot immediately. In 2004, Maharathy escaped with his life when two
armed youths threatened to assault him at an official meeting of
panchayat samiti.

His criminal activities have gone beyond the geographical boundaries
of his constituency. He has committed crime in Khurda, Bhubaneswar,
Bargarh, Cuttack and Puri. In the late 90s, he was jailed for six


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