The father of a woman teacher of a private school in Odisha’s Kalahandi district, who was kidnapped and murdered last month, on Sunday appealed to opposition parties and the media to refrain from indulging in “character assassination” of his daughter. The woman’s family has taken umbrage over Kantabanji Congress MLA S S Saluja’s recent remark that she had been to the house of Minister of State for Home D S Mishra at Raipur along with the prime accused for a compromise.
Saluja had claimed they visited Mishra’s residence on three days from September 20-23, and that the minister had tried to resolve differences between her and the prime accused, who is the president of the managing committee of the private school in Kalahandi district. Opposition parties are mounting pressure on Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to sack Mishra from the council of ministers, alleging that he is close to the prime accused. The body of the teacher was on October 19 exhumed from the playground of the school where she worked.
Two persons, including the prime accused, have been arrested in this connection.
The police said the prime suspect in the kidnap and murder case had a grudge against the teacher, as she was aware of his extra-marital affairs and had warned that she would expose him. The 24-year-old woman’s father also said he and his family have full faith in Patnaik and are optimistic of getting justice.
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Saluja further said the woman’s family are making such statements due to “pressure” from some quarters. “They are frightened and panicked. They feel helpless as the minister was not sacked despite a statewide furore for a month. Therefore, they now have to publicly speak about having trust in the CM,” he said.
The Congress MLA said it was the deceased teacher’s father who had earlier alleged that police did not register his FIR. “Now, they are saying something else fearing danger to their lives,” Saluja said.
Senior Congress MLA Suresh Routray said: “Based on the family’s allegations, we came forward to take up the issue in order to help in getting justice for them. But now, they are saying something else. However, the Congress will continue its agitation till the family gets justice.” BJP leader and Sundergarh MP Jual Oram claimed that the woman’s family “has been pressurised to change their mind ahead of the CM’s visit to Kalahandi”. “That is the reason why they are not coming out against Mishra anymore,” Oram, a former Union minister, said.
Meanwhile, Kalahandi district on Sunday witnessed a range of protests from silent prayers to hurling of eggs by Congress and BJP activists demanding justice for the woman. The chief minister is scheduled to visit the tribal-dominated district on Monday.
Earlier in the day, eggs were thrown at the car of Mishra allegedly by BJP supporters, while he was on his way to a BJD programme along with the party’s organising secretary. The protesters also showed black flags, demanding his resignation. Activists of the two parties also clashed near Bhawanipatna College Chhak before police brought the situation under control, officials said.
Congress leader Bhakta Charan Das appealed to people to observe a ‘Janata Curfew’ as a mark of protest for one hour during Patnaik’s visit.
Kalahandi BJP MP Basant Panda also said the party will organise rallies in the parliamentary constituency.