File photo: Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik.(PTI)
File photo: Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik.(PTI)

Odisha CM says ready for SIT probe in murder case of 5-year-old girl

On July 14, 5-year-old Pari, daughter of rickshaw-puller Ashok Sahu of Jadupur village, Nayagarh, had gone missing. Ten days later, her skeletal remains were discovered.
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar | By Debabrata Mohanty | Edited by Sparshita Saxena
UPDATED ON NOV 27, 2020 11:20 PM IST

With the opposition BJP and Congress unrelenting in their demand seeking resignation of higher education and panchayati raj minister Arun Sahoo over the alleged murder of 5-year-old girl by one of his aides, chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday said the state government was ready for a probe by an SIT if needed.

Attending the winter session of the Odisha Assembly through video conference from his residence, CM Patnaik said a probe by the Special Investigating Team (SIT) into the alleged murder of Pari, the 5-year-old daughter of a rickshaw-puller can be ordered, if needed.

“My government is always committed to free and fair investigation. I am deeply saddened by the incident and my Government always stand for the rule of law,” said Patnaik requesting the opposition MLAs to cooperate in running of the House. Patnaik early this week had ordered a probe by state CID into the case of murder.

However, both Congress and BJP members continued to create ruckus in the Assembly demanding the minister’s ouster from the Cabinet, forcing Speaker Surjya Patro to adjourn the proceedings for the day. BJP leader Jayanarayan Mishra said Patnaik hasn’t ordered an SIT probe. “All that he said was if SIT probe is what is required, the state government will take steps in this regard and do it immediately. In any case, our party did not demand an SIT probe. We want the minister’s resignation,” said Mishra.

On July 14, 5-year-old Pari, daughter of rickshaw-puller Ashok Sahu and his wife Saudamini Sahu in Jadupur village of Nayagarh, had gone missing while playing outside. Ten days later, her skeletal remains were discovered in a sack outside their house. The girl’s father alleged that his daughter was killed by one Babuli Nayak, aide of minister Sahoo, as he traded in human organs. As the local police floundered in the investigation, the Sahu couple on November 24 tried to bring attention to the case by attempting self-immolation outside the Odisha Assembly. However, they were saved in the nick of time by cops.

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Senior BJD MLA Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak said it’s unjust on the part of the opposition to create ruckus in the Assembly and mar proceedings of the House. “There is enough scope for the opposition members to discuss the matter in details as home department’s demand of discussion is on the schedule,” he said. Outside the Assembly, BJP activists and youth Congress workers took out a rally demanding the minister’s ouster.

On Friday, Soumyaranjan Pradhan, sarpanch of Lakshmiprasad gram panchayat, where the murder occurred, moved Orissa High Court seeking protection for himself and family from the minister claiming that he had received death threats. “I’m receiving threat calls as I’m vocal in this incident. If anything happens to me or my family, Arun Sahoo will be responsible,” said Pradhan, who has made state home secretary, DGP, Nayagarh Collector, SP and inspector of local police station as parties.

A public interest litigation has also been filed in the Orissa High Court seeking CBI probe and Rs 25 lakh compensation for the kin of the deceased minor girl.

The issue attracted more controversy with BJD vice-president and Khandapada MLA Soumyaranjan Patnaik terming the case as a ‘minor incident’. State BJP leader Lekhashree Samantasinghar said the MLA’s comments were shameful. “The little girl lost her life even before understanding it and her family is completely devastated. What more does MLA Soumya Patnaik think would have happened to the girl to make it a big case,” said Lekha Samantasinghar.

Meanwhile, the minister who is under fire for his role in the issue, said he welcomed the CID probe and requested opposition parties not to politicise the issue, instead focus on unravelling the truth.

“In my entire political career, I have never supported any kind of violence. I welcome the crime branch probe decision by the state government and hopeful that justice will be delivered. I want to see that the family of Pari gets justice. People involved in the crime should not be left free,” he said.

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