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Mrunal Manmay Dash

As the fire of Mamita Meher murder case reached Delhi and at a time when the whole of Odisha awaits their five-time Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik to take exemplary action against MoS (Home) Captain Dibyashankar Mishra, whose alleged involvement in the case has now become the talk of the town, the BJD supremo’s deafening silence has raised serious questions on the Odisha government’s resolve not to take atrocities against women for granted.

While some allege that Mishra’s clout over a powerful faction in the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) has managed to shield him from harm’s way, some others think that Naveen Patnaik is not in the know of things and all the affairs have been handled by the power corridor and bureaucrats.

And the assumptions are not entirely baseless given the actions which were taken against Ministers in the past over allegations of harassment of women. From former Speaker Maheswar Mohanty to the late Minister Pradeep Maharathy, they were all axed from their positions after allegations of woman harassment were brought against them.

Maheswar Mohanty and Minister Debasis Nayak were sacked from their respective positions by CM Naveen in the Woman Marshal sexual harassment case. Similarly, the then Minister Manmohan Samal was forced to leave his chair after he was allegedly spotted spending a night with a woman at Odisha Niwas in Delhi. Likewise, late Minister Pradeep Maharathy was ousted from cabinet for allegedly shielding the Pipili rape and murder case accused.

However, Mamita murder case witnessed an exception in CM Naveen’s behaviour when he chose to stay silent. He is yet to make a statement or initiate action in the case after fingers were pointed at Minister Mishra who is reportedly close to the key accused Gobinda Sahu and attended many cultural events of the college where Mamita was a teacher and the former was the Managing Committee President.

Senior journalist Rabi Das said, “I think Naveen Patnaik is least involved in administration these days. Somebody else is controlling all the affairs on behalf of him. The image which he managed to create over the years by ensuring zero tolerance in woman safety issues is on the brink of collapse.”

Similarly, BJP leader Surama Padhi echoed the sentiments of the Opposition over the issue. “Naveen Babu has changed his character. He has become power hungry and greedy, so much so that his earlier resolve to ensure women safety by taking stringent action against Ministers has been deflated like a water bubble,” she alleged.

However, BJD leader Kishore Mohanty refuted allegations on Minister Mishra and played down the issue by saying that the law will take its own course. To label a person as an accused even before the completion of the investigation is uncalled for, he said.

Meanwhile, senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala was in Odisha on Thursday. He led a fact-finding team of the Indian National Congress that visited the house of the victim's family and met them at Jharni Village in Bolangir.

Alleging lacunas in the charges slapped against the key accused, the Congress leader demanded that unless the Minister (Dibya Shankar Mishra) is booked under Sec 120B of IPC and dismissed from the Cabinet, a fair probe cannot be ensured and justice will never be delivered to our daughter (Mamita Meher).

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