Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today announced probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the kidnapping and murder of a five-year-old girl in the Nayagarh district.
Odisha agriculture and higher education minister Arun Sahoo has been accused of shielding the killer of the girl whose parents attempted self-immolation near the Assembly building on Tuesday.
Agriculture and Higher Education minister Arun Sahoo is no stranger to controversies. His name has cropped up in connection with several cases, including the chit fund scam and the mysterious death of a person in his official residence in Bhubaneswar, in the past. But such is the clout enjoyed by the young, ebullient leader from Nayagarh that the long arm of the law has always stopped short of him. He is believed to have torn off the papers the Crime Branch proposed to ask him about when it was investigating the multi thousand crore chit fund scam before it was handed over to the CBI on the orders of the Supreme Court.
But this time, even his famed clout appears to have failed to protect him from the law. The minister has been accused of shielding the killer(s) of Pari, a five-year-old girl, who was the only child of her parents, from Jadupur village in Nayagarh district. Though the murder took place on July 14, the case came to limelight only last Tuesday when the exasperated parents of Pari, auto rickshaw driver Ashok Sahu and his wife Soudamini beat the tight, three-layered security around the Odisha Assembly and attempted self-immolation by pouring diesel on themselves. They were rescued in time by alert policemen but poured out their anguish before TV cameras even as they were being taken away by the cops. Ashok Sahu named one Babuli Nayak, a close aide of minister Arun Sahoo, as the killer and attributed the murder to an alleged kidney racket that he accused Nayak of running. More importantly, he alleged that instead of identifying and arresting the killer, local police was harassing him and directly accused the minister of shielding the killer.
Predictably, all hell broke loose as the failed self-immolation bid took place right in front of the Assembly, which is currently having its long winter session. With both the BJP and the Congress demanding the resignation or dismissal of Arun Sahoo from the cabinet, the House has failed to do any business since Tuesday afternoon. Left with little option, the state government on Thursday announced a Crime Branch investigation into the case. But the Opposition rejected it outright citing numerous past cases where the CB has reached a dead end. The Congress demanded a court monitored probe by a special investigating team (SIT), while the BJP insisted on the case being handed over to the CBI.
With the announcement of the Crime Branch probe having failed to satisfy the Opposition and break the deadlock in the Assembly, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, worried about the adverse fallout of the case, announced an SIT probe on Friday. While the Congress kept quiet, the BJP rejected the announcement outright. Senior MLA Jaynarayan Mishra pointed to the wording of the statement issued by the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) to claim that no SIT probe had been ordered. Mishra appears to have a point as the statement read; “If SIT investigation is what is required, the state government will take steps in this regard and do it immediately.”
Pari went missing on July 14 and her parents lodged an FIR in this regard the same day. Nine days later, her skeletal remains stuffed in a gunny bag were traced to the backyard of her house. A DNA test confirmed that the remains were those of Pari. Consequently, the missing case was converted into a murder case. But the probe has made little progress since then, forcing the Sahoo couple to take the extreme step on Tuesday.
The charge that Pari had been murdered as part a kidney racket allegedly run by Babuli Nayak made by her father has now been backed by Soumya Ranjan Pradhan, the sarpanch of Laxmiprasad GP under which Jadupur village falls. Pradhan went public on Friday reiterating what Sahoo had said on Tuesday. He also accused minister Sahoo of using the police to pressurize him to back off. “If something happens to me or my family, Arun Sahoo will be squarely responsible for it,” he said.
Meanwhile, a seven-member team of the Crime Branch, led by ADG Yashwant Jethwa, reached Jadupur village and began the investigation on Friday. But with the CM announcing an SIT probe, it is not clear what would be the fate of investigation being currently conducted by the Crime Branch.
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