Thursday, January 19, 2012

[ZESTCaste] Orissa Dalit gangrape: Charged with sheltering accused, agriculture minister resigns

Orissa Dalit gangrape: Charged with sheltering accused, agriculture
minister resigns

Debabrata Mohanty Posted online: Thu Jan 19 2012, 11:42 hrs
Bhubaneswar : Controversial Orissa agriculture minister Pradip
Maharathi, who was embroiled in the alleged gangrape of a Dalit girl
from Puri, resigned today on moral grounds following increasing
pressure from Opposition parties and women's organisations here.

Maharathi, who became minister for the first time in May last year,
has hung like an albatross around chief minister Naveen Patnaik's neck
over allegations that he sheltered the rape accused. "I resigned to
save my party and the image of my chief minister... like Lal Bahadur
Shastri resigned after the rail mishap," Maharathi told the ledia
after putting in his papers this morning.

Maharathi's resignation was an inevitability as the issue had heated
up just ahead of next month's panchayat polls that would determine
where Patnaik's political popularity stands after 12 years at the

The 18-year-old Dalit girl of Arjunagoda village in Pipili block of
Puri district was allegedly gangraped by some local youths on November
28 last year. After the gangrape, the assailants allegedly tried to
strangulate her which left the girl in a state of coma. The girl is
still in coma and admitted in the intensive care unit of SCB Medical
College and Hospital, Cuttack. Doctors from Bangalore's National
Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences are also treating her.

Naveen had handed the case to the Criminal Investigation Department,
Crime Branch of the Orissa police and three of the four accused have
been arrested. He also ordered a parallel judicial probe by a retired
High Court judge, but that has not calmed the uproar with students,
Opposition parties and women's organisation demanding a CBI probe and
Maharathi's resignation. The case had got murkier with the brother of
the victim alleging that Maharathi was sheltering the accused.

Naveen Patnaik was left embarrassed after a group of students from the
Jawaharlal Nehru University staged a demonstration in front of his
Aurangzeb Road residence in New Delhi on January 16. In Bhubaneswar
too, Opposition political parties, civil society organisations, human
rights activists, lawyers, journalists and writers took out a huge
rally under the banner of Odisha Gana Samaja and demanded a CBI probe
into the incident.

Two days ago, former Union coal secretary and 1966-batch IAS officer
Prasanna Kumar Mishra in an open letter to Naveen Patnaik had demanded
the inspector of Pipili police station be dismissed under Article
311(2) (b) as he did not lodge an FIR despite the pleas of the
victim's family.

The condition of the alleged gangrape victim seems to be improving
with the girl spontaneously opening her eyes and moving her chin. The
Orissa High Court which is hearing a PIL on the issue, was told by the
SCB Medical College and Hospital authorities that the girl is now
trying to open her mouth and all her vital organs are stable.

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