The Odisha State Commission for Women (OSCW) Jyoti Panigrahi finds herself in a corner as her enquiry report on the alleged gang rape of a dalit girl in Puri district has triggered widespread protests from opposition parties and civil society groups on the ground that it is “politically motivated and meant to protect the interest of the BJD government”.
On Tuesday, hundreds of activists of women wings of Congress and BJP held separate demonstrations in the capital, while leaders of five political parties including CPI, CPM, Samajwadi Party submitted a memorandum to governor MC Bhandare demanding resignation of SCW chair person Jyoti Panigrahi.
“Panigrahi has tarnished the image of the OSCW by submitting an utterly insensitive report without even visiting the village of the victim,” said Odisha Women Congress president Bijaylaxmi Sahu.
In her report, Panigrahi had said that she found no allegation of sexual assault to the victim in her family’s FIR as well as doctor’s report. As per the medical report, Panigrahi said, injury was caused to the victim’s neck due to partial hanging.
“I have just cited the content in victim’s family’s FIR and reports of Capital Hospital and SCB Medical College which did not mention allegations of rape,” Panigrahi told HT.
However, former National Women’s Commission member Sukeshi Oram said that when the victim’s mother had on record said that her daughter was raped and left for dead, Panigrahi should have seriously taken note of it.
Social activist Rabi Das said the OSCW report almost absolved the police and cast aspersion on the role by victim’s family. “Considering the poor dalit family’s background, faulting them for the girl’s condition is a bit too insensitive,” Das said, adding that the SCW’s report was politically motivated in view of coming panchayat elections in the state.
The 19-year-old girl, who is now struggling for her life in the SCB Medical College Hospital at Cuttack, was found in a serious condition on November 28 last year in a village under Pipili police station in Puri district, about 40 km east of Bhubaneswar.
She was admitted to the local hospital and then referred to Capital Hospital on November 29. In between November 29 to December 14 the comatose girl was in and out of Capital Hospital and SCB Medical College twice.
The girl’s family claimed they had lodged a complaint on November 29 after her alleged rape but the Pipili police did not take any action. It was after the intervention of the State Women’s Commission on January 7 that her plight attracted limelight.
The local police registered the case on January 9 following the intervention of Orissa high court, State Women’s Commission and State Human Rights Commission.
The incident raised public outcry across the state resulting in dismissal of the local police station incharge AK Champatiray, transfer of Puri district superintendent of police SN Sinha and resignation of local MLA Pradip Maharathi as agriculture minister.
Presently, the case is under Odisha high court monitored crime branch investigation. The crime branch has arrested four persons for their involvement in the case. The state government has also initiated a judicial enquiry into it.
The OSCW Report In Short
1. The commission asked the state government to take action against doctors who neglected the victim and did not inform the police. Further, the victim was discharged from SCB Medical College and Hospital though she was in a comatose condition.
2. As per the FIR of the victim’s family and reports of Capital Hospital, Bhubaneswar and SCB Medical College, Cuttack, there was no mention of allegation of sexual assault.
3. The guardians of the victim remained silent about the issue from December 14, 2011 to January 7, 2012.