Suspect in rape case that ousted a CM finally held
After 22 years, Odisha Police have arrested the third and the last accused in a gang rape case that triggered state-wide outcry and led to the ouster of then Congress chief minister JB Patnaik in 1999, officials said on Monday.
Police said 50-year-old Bibekananda Biswal, alias Biban, was picked up from Maharashtra’s Aamby Valley township on Sunday. He was working as a plumber, allegedly masquerading as a man identified as Jalandhar Swain, said Bhubaneswar-Cuttack police commissioner Sudhansu Sarangi.
“After getting a tip-off on Biswal, we started ‘Operation Silent Viper’ to catch hold of him. With the help of Pune Rural police, we tracked him down...,” Sarangi told the press in Bhubaneswar.
Sarangi said Biswal got an Aadhaar card and a new voter identity card made in his fake name. “He used to send money to his family. He was asking his family to get a death certificate made so that Biban Biswal can be shown as dead in police records. We have informed the CBI about his arrest and waiting to hand him over,” Sarangi said.
Biswal, Padia Sahoo, then 26, and Dhirendra Mohanty, then 25, were named in the gang rape of Anjana Mishra, then 29, on a desolate stretch of a highway connecting Cuttack and state capital Bhubaneswar on the night of January 9, 1999. The three intercepted her and her journalist friend while they were on their way to Bhubaneswar. Her friend was held at gunpoint.
The incident came about a year and half after Mishra, the estranged wife of an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, accused Indrajit Ray, the then Odisha advocate general, of molesting her in his chamber. In her first information report (FIR), Mishra alleged that top functionaries of the government ordered the rape to silence her.
The gang rape of Mishra became a politically sensitive case and eventually led to the stepping down of then CM JB Patnaik at the insistence of the Congress high command.
As the news of Biswal became public, Mishra demanded that he be hanged till death. At a press conference in Bhubaneswar on Monday, she accused the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the case, of denying her justice.
“Over the years, multiple attempts have been made to eliminate me. My house (Bhubaneswar) was vandalised. I was not allowed to stay in my house. I am forced to live with my mother (in the same city),” Mishra, who has separated from her husband, said. She alleged that Biswal evaded arrest for years due to a section of Congress leaders backing him.
Congress legislator Suresh Routray, however, dismissed the charge. “It is a laughable allegation. We are happy that Biswal has been arrested,” said Routray.
At the time of the incident, Mishra was locked in a marital dispute with her husband. On July 11, 1997, she visited the chamber of then advocate general Ray to discuss a case of dowry harassment.Later, she alleged that Ray tried to sexually harass her.
On February 2, 2000, a CBI court in Bhubaneswar found Ray guilty of molesting Mishra and sentenced him to three years of imprisonment and handed him a ₹5,000 fine. He was arrested the same day but released minutes later on a bail bond of ₹40,000 and two sureties. He appealed against the order in a higher court, but died in 2008 before the judgment was out.
In her FIR, Mishra accused CM JB Patnaik of engineering the gang rape so as to scare her into withdrawing the case against Ray, a friend of the Congress leader. As opposition parties mounted pressure for his resignation, JB Patnaik quit his post on February 17, 1999. In April 2000, assembly elections were held and a government by the Biju Janata Dal, which is still ruling the state, came to power.
Sahoo and Mohanty were arrested in January 1999, days after the crime. The Orissa high court ordered a CBI investigation into the gang rape case and a charge sheet was filed that May. In April 2002, a CBI court in Bhubaneswar sentenced Sahoo and Mohanty to life imprisonment and fined each of them ₹5,000. The high court upheld that verdict in 2010. Sahoo died in 2020, while Mohanty is serving his sentence in special jail of Bhubaneswar.
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- The kin of the deceased have been given an instant relief amount of ₹25,000 and the body has been sent for post-mortem.
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