Less than a week after a teacher was set on fire in Odisha’s Rayagada district allegedly because she refused to with draw a sexual harassment complaint against a sub-inspector of schools, she succumbed to her injuries on Friday.
Rayagada district collector SB Padhi said the contractual teacher, 27-year-old Itishree Pradhan, died at 11:14am at a hospital in Andhra Pradesh’s Vishakhapatnam, where she was admitted with 80% burn wounds.
The brutal incident had taken place at the hostel of a primary school at Tikiri, about 600 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, on October 27. Pradhan was about to go to sleep when an unidentified person barged into her room, set her on fire after pouring kerosene oil on her and fled.
She was first rushed to the local hospital and later shifted to a hospital in Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. In her statement before a magistrate, Pradhan earlier said she was attacked because she did not withdraw her sexual harassment complaint against SI Netrananda Dandasena.
Dandasena had gone into hiding but was arrested on Wednesday from a place near Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border, police said, adding that they are in the lookout for another person who allegedly poured kerosene on Pradhan.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s statistics for 2012, Odisha had recorded the third highest number of crime against women in the country. This year, too, the state has been rocked by several cases of rape and murder.
After the incident, collector SB Padhi suspended Dandasena for his alleged involvement in the crime, while district inspector of schools (DI) Dharanidhar Behera was also suspended for not taking against the SI despite receiving a complaint from Pradhan.
“An inquiry has been initiated into the incident. Further action will be taken accordingly,” he had said.
Superintendent of police Rajesh Pandit suspended police sub-inspector Muralidhar Pradhan for dereliction in duty.
Pradhan had lodged her complaint against Dandasena in the local police station on July 18. As there was no action, she moved the district collector and Odisha State Women’s Commission a month later with her grievance.
On the basis of an inquiry report, the collector had directed Behera to take action against Dandasena, who by that time had gone into hiding.
Pradhan’s brother alleged his sister’s repeated pleas about threat to her life fell on deaf ears as no effort was made to trace Dandasena or to take action against him.
On Friday, chief minister Naveen Patnaik expressed his grief over the death and announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 10 lakh for her family. The chief minister also asked the authorities to conduct the trial of the case in a fast-track court.
The incident has sent shockwaves across Odisha with opposition parties demanding a probe into the circumstances leading to her death. They alleged that she died because district authorities failed to take any action against Dandasena despite her petitions. “She had knocked all doors for the past three months, but her grievances fell on deaf ears,” Odisha Congress chief Jayadev Jena said.