Hand over Rishi death inquiry to CBI

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By Sandeep Sahu

The death of engineering student Rishi Mohanty in May this year and its alleged link with the sex tape that has been the talk of the town for nearly a week now is getting murkier by the day. On Thursday, two friends of Rishi, their faces covered, asserted before television cameras that his death definitely had to do with the sex video that has gone viral. Rubbishing the police version that Rishi died due to drug overdose, they claimed that it was Rishi himself who had told them that his life was at risk because of the tape that had been handed over to him by his girlfriend as ‘powerful’ people were involved.

While the ‘revelation’ (which, by the way, was in circulation in social media platforms and informal exchanges since the video went viral) by the two friends was explosive enough, equally damning was what they said about the conduct of the police in the whole case. Accusing the commissionerate police of not giving them protection, they volunteered to reveal everything they know about the case to the cops if given adequate protection.

Even before today’s startling disclosure by the two friends, it has been apparent for some time now that the commissionerate police have, for reasons that are not clear yet, made a hash of the investigation into the case from the very beginning. Commissioner YB Khurania asserted the other day that there was no pressure on the police. But his claim is not quite backed up by the sequence of events since the death of Rishi seven months ago. There are just too many questions crying out for answers. Why was the death of Rishi, registered as a case of unnatural death (UD) at the Khandagiri police station (Case no 64/16), never investigated properly? Why was his viscera sent for forensic examination only after the scandal broke seven months after his death? Why was Shiekh Mumtaz, the drug peddler who reportedly supplied the drug that allegedly led to Rishi’s death, taken into custody and then let off without any further investigation? What was BMC Mayor doing at the Capital Hospital where the post mortem of Rishi was conducted? Why was he so keen to attribute Rishi’s death to drug overuse and hand over Mumtaz to police instead of letting it do its job? Why does not the case find mention in the court register as per procedure as niankhunta.com, the portal that broke the story and is now facing a defamation suit for it, has alleged? If the claim is false, why haven’t the commissionerate police produced evidence to refute it? Why have the police failed to trace the lady in the video, allegedly the mother of Rishi’s girl friend, or her daughter so far? Why have the police not so far assured the two friends who made the startling revelation about the correlation between the sex tape and Rishi’s death of full protection and questioned them? If the media can reach them and throw light on the case, why couldn’t the police do the same? One could go on and on..

Whether it was due to ‘pressure’ or plain shoddiness, it is now obvious that the commissionerate police have badly bungled the whole case. In either case, it is futile to expect it to make amends and get to the bottom of the case at this stage because that would mean accepting that they have indeed made a mess of the investigation and indicting the officers who probed the case in the initial days.

Given the Naveen Patnaik government’s standard response in such cases, especially when there are allegations against ruling party politicians, it is likely that the case would be handed over to the Crime Branch. But the agency’s record of investigating politically significant cases does not inspire much confidence that such a move would ever unravel the truth. One just has to remember the fate of past cases like the murder of former Umerkote MLA Jagabandhu Majhi, the Bebina case, the Itishree Pradhan case or even the more recent quadruple suicide of Ananga Manjari Patra and her three siblings in Parala palace to realize that the Crime Branch has seldom taken politically volatile cases to their logical conclusion.

If Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who also happens to be the Home minister, really wants to get to the bottom of the case and convince the people about his intention to do so, he should ask for a CBI inquiry into the case. Anything short of that is certain to lead to misgivings about the government’s sincerity in unraveling the case.

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