Orissa minister in trouble for links with rape suspect

June 2nd, 2009 - 2:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, June 2 (IANS) Hundreds of rights activists staged protests in Orissa’s Bargarh town Tuesday demanding the resignation of state minister Bijaya Ranjan Singh Beriha as they allege he has links with a man accused of raping a woman last month.
The protesters held a demonstration outside the district superintendent of police’s office in Bargarh, over 350 km from here, and shouted slogans against Beriha, who is the minister for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes development.

The activists say Beriha has links with Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Mahesh Agarwal who is one of four people accused of raping a 24-year-old woman May 10.

The victim was allegedly gang raped by four people including Agarwal, the local block chairman at Paikmal town, District Superintendent of Police A.K. Biswal told IANS. Agarwal was Monday suspended from the BJD by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

The victim said she had gone to the block office to enquire about a government job when Agarwal’s associates took her to a godown, promising to help her. She was rescued by the police who reached there following a tip-off.

She complained that she was gang raped by Agarwal and three others, Biswal said, adding that the police cannot arrest Agarwal as he has obtained anticipatory bail. The other three accused are absconding, he said.

Biswal said the girl’s medical examination had confirmed that she was raped.

Western Orissa Dalit Adhikar Manch (ODAM), an organisation working for the protection of the rights of Dalits in the state, alleged that Beriha visited Agarwal’s house during his first visit to the region after becoming minister last month.

It claimed that Beriha also pressurised police not to arrest Agarwal and his associates.

Beriha has denied the allegation and said the law will take its own course.

“I have gone to the houses of many people to thank them for electing me. I had also gone to the victim’s house,” said Beriha.

The state government Monday ordered a probe into the gang rape by the crime branch. But ODAM convenor Saroj Suna said the steps taken were not enough.

“It is not enough. The government was forced to order a high-level probe due to public pressure,” Suna told IANS.

“The government should suspend policemen who tried to shield the accused. Beriha should also resign,” he said.

“All the four culprits should also be arrested immediately,” he added.

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