Bhubaneswar: As a young official’s unnatural death while she was on duty in Odisha’s Jajpur remains shrouded in mystery, a bandh called by the opposition BJP demanding a CBI probe into the incident brought the district to a standstill on Monday.
The BJP has accused Jajpur district police of wilfully hiding the truth behind the death of the village level worker who was in-charge panchayat executive officer of Haridaspur.
While police say a preliminary probe has revealed that the official committed suicide due to extreme possessiveness in the extramarital relationship she allegedly had with the sarpanch’s husband, a ‘fact-finding team’ of the BJP said circumstantial evidence suggested that she was raped and then killed.
The woman’s family members have, meanwhile, alleged that she was under intense pressure from the sarpanch’s husband and some local leaders who had been asking her to include the names of ineligible beneficiaries in the list of the rural housing scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY).
The body of the official, who was mother to a toddler, was found hanging at a private company’s guesthouse in Haridaspur. She was on duty at the time as she had gone to disburse old-age pension to several beneficiaries in the area. The guesthouse is owned by the sarpanch’s husband, Rupesh Bhadra.
Her death occurred even as a feast, attended by several local BJD leaders and officers of the private company Ramco Cement, continued at the guesthouse. BJP leaders said Bhadra, two BJD samiti members, a BJD zilla parishad member and some high-ranking officers of the cement company attended the feast.
The 11-member ‘fact-finding team’ of BJP leaders that visited the place and spoke to a cross-section of people alleged that the police were portraying a rape and murder case as a simple suicide at the behest of local leaders of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
“Circumstantial evidence strongly suggests that she was killed after being gang raped at the guesthouse. Since the local police are not probing in the right direction, this case must be handed over to the CBI,” said senior BJP leader and former Odisha DGP Prakash Mishra, who was part of the fact-finding team.
Jajpur SP Charan Singh Meena drew criticism from various quarters for saying at a news conference that the woman was in a relationship with Rupesh Bhadra for some time and that she committed suicide after having an argument with him at the guesthouse.
The woman, he said, used to insist that “Bhadra should only talk to her and not with any other woman, even his own wife”.
The official’s husband and rubbished the SP’s claims and demanded a CBI probe. Bhadra, who has been functioning as the de facto sarpanch and is known to have close ties with several top BJD leaders, has been arrested for allegedly abetting suicide.
Despite the autopsy report saying that there was no injury marks on her body and that she died of asphyxiation, her husband said he noticed some red spots on her legs and that a ring was missing, facts which were initially not mentioned in the inquest report.
Hundreds of BJP workers and leaders were taken into custody during the party’s dawn-to-dusk bandh that paralysed normal life. Traffic was thin on the roads and shops remained closed at Jajpur, Jajpur Town, Vyasnagar, Sukinda, Binjharpur, Bari, Dharmasala and Chandikhole.
The ruling BJD, meanwhile, urged the opposition parties to refrain from politicising the issue. “This is a sensitive case, and a probe is still on,” said BJD spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Sasmit Patra.
(With inputs from Sujit Mallick)