Orissa opposition demands arrest of minister over gang rape

June 5th, 2009 - 12:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Bhubaneswar, June 5 (IANS) The opposition Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Orissa Friday demanded arrest of state minister Bijaya Ranjan Singh Beriha for his alleged links with a man accused of raping a Dalit woman last month.
The 24-year-old victim was allegedly raped by four people including Mahesh Agarwal - a Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and a local block chairman at Paikmal in the district of Bargarh, about 350 km from here - on May 10.

Congress and BJP leaders said Beriha visited Agarwal’s house during his first visit to the region after becoming minister last month. They claimed that Beriha also pressurised police not to arrest Agarwal and his associates.

Beriha has denied the allegation saying that law would take its own course. However, the opposition leaders said they want immediate arrest of the minister for shielding the rape accused.

“Police deliberately did not arrest any of the accused people even when the victim named them. Beriha wants to protect all the accused people,” BJP leader and former minister Surama Padhi told IANS.

“It is a matter of shame for all of us. The local BJD leaders and the minister are all involved in the crime. Police have also become a party,” working president of state Congress Bhakta Charan Das told IANS.

“We want immediate action against all the accused as well as against the minister. If the government does not act, we will launch a state-wide agitation,” he said.

The victim told police that she went 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 raped by Agarwal and three others, a senior district police officer said, adding that the police could not arrest Agarwal as he had obtained anticipatory bail. The other three accused were absconding, he said.

A police officer said the girl’s medical examination had confirmed that she was raped. The state government has handed over the case to the crime branch. The BJD has suspended Agarwal from the party.

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