What has shocked the collective conscience of the people is why would a five-year-old girl be abducted and murdered? What could she have done to deserve this horrific fate?
By Srimoy Kar
In the past week, three serious matters have taken the centre stage in Odisha. Two back to back alleged custodial deaths, inordinate delay in apprehending the culprits involved in the abduction and murder of a five-year-old girl in Nayagarh district and the vigilance raid on a high flying Indian Forest Service Officer, Abhay Kant Pathak, have occupied prime time TV space and newspaper front pages. The winter session of the Odisha Assembly is in a state of limbo for the last two days with the Naveen Patnaik government fighting the Opposition with its back to the wall for the acts of the police, while stories about Pathak’s wealth and opulence are now subject of social media memes.
The insensitivity and callousness of the police in the alleged custodial deaths and the Nayagarh rape and murder case has brought the entire force enormous discredit embarrassing its top officials and the government alike. With eight reported custodial deaths in Odisha between 2017 and 2019, the state already stands condemned for the police high handedness and excesses. It is, therefore, no surprise that the two recent ones have already drawn the displeasure of the Odisha High Court and the National and State Human Rights bodies.
Opposition BJP and Congress were quick to take up the issue both outside and inside the Assembly. Pushed onto the back foot, the state government transferred the then Puri Superintendent of Police, Akhileswar Singh and placed four other cops under suspension. But the knee jerk reaction has failed to assuage feelings of grief-stricken relatives and an angry public. More victims of such recent cruelty are undergoing treatment in different hospitals.
The gut-wrenching incident in Nayagarh has added to the discomfiture of the embattled state government. The little girl Pari was abducted while playing on the village street and her decomposed body was found tucked inside a sack a few days later not far from her house.
Again, the ineptitude of the police is the central theme in this case too as the probe has made little headway four months after her abduction and murder. With the Nayagarh police still groping in the dark, it took Pari’s hapless parents’ self-immolation attempt in front of the Assembly for political parties to sit up and take notice.
Allegations of political protection to the perpetrators of the crime are flying thick and fast with the Opposition paralyzing the business of the House as they demand the resignation of the Agriculture Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo. While Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has bowed to the Congress demand for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to crack the crime, BJP, the principal opposition party, refuses to settle for anything less than a CBI probe.
What has shocked the collective conscience of the people is why would a five-year-old girl be abducted and murdered? What could she have done to deserve this horrific fate? Was it because her auto-driver father had any bloodthirsty enemies or was this the handiwork of a gang involved in organ racket? While these and other questions remain unanswered, the role of the Nayagarh police in suppressing the crime has left the authorities red-faced. The district police chief, Pratyush Prabhakar has not exactly covered himself in glory by failing to deliver on his responsibilities.
If indirect responsibility was fixed on Akhileswar Singh for the alleged manslaughter by his subordinates in Puri, should the role of Prabhakar
be viewed differently by the government? It is in the interest of Naveen Patnaik, who had barely tolerated any act of impropriety be it among his colleagues in the council of ministers or government officials in the past, to prove once again that he values human lives and continues to walk the talk. For, Pari’s case is no less blood chilling than that of Nirbhaya in New Delhi.
The author is former Resident Editor of New Indian Express. He can be contacted at email@example.com
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with Prameya News)