With opposition Congress and BJP demanding his resignation, Odisha Agriculture Minister Pradeep Maharathy Thursday said “sorry” over his remark on the acquittal of accused persons in the sensational Pipili rape and murder case.”I am sorry if anyone is hurt over my statement. I have no intention to hurt anyone. I am an open minded person,” Maharathy told reporters after the activists of Mahila Congress demanded his resignation and BJP members sought a CBI probe into the rape and subsequent death of the 19-year old dalit woman in Pipili area of Puri district.
On December 24, the court of additional district judge court in Bhubaneswar had acquitted the two accused persons arrested in the case. On his reaction over the court judgement, Maharathy had said: “I welcome the court judgement. It is victory of the truth. The victim girl got the justice.”
Maharathy’s statement irked the opposition parties as well as the victim’s family who are demanding stringent action against the accused persons. “How come the victim got justice when the accused persons are acquitted,” asked Odisha Mahila Congress president Sumitra Jena.
Meanwhile, the ADG Crime Branch S K Upadhay in Cuttack said that the investigating agency will move the Orissa High Court challenging the judgement of the lower court verdict. Earlier in the day, opposition Congress and BJP demanded the resignation of Maharathy for his comments on the acquittal of two persons arrested in connection with the case.
Denouncing Maharathy’s comment, senior BJP leader and Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said his statement indicated the “flawed policies” of the state government on women and scheduled castes. Congress women activists on Thursday staged demonstration before the Agriculture minister’s official residence here and hurled eggs and tomatoes at his house, while the BJP Mahila Morcha demanded that Maharathy be dropped from the ministry and the case handed over to the CBI.
Police arrested about 40 activists of Odisha Mahila Congress as a preventive measure as they had assembled before the minister’s house and attempted to barge into its premises, said Bhubaneswar assistant commissioner of police Sanjay Singh. “We will continue agitation till the minister is expelled from the ministry,” the Odisha Mahila Congress chief said.
Maharathy’s comment has hurt the sentiment of women, she said. The BJP threatened to take to the streets if Maharathy is not removed from the state cabinet in next 24 hours.
A 19-year-old woman was found unconscious and semi-naked in a paddy field in Pipli on November 28, 2011. She succumbed on June 21, 2012 after remaining semi-comatose in SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack. Maharathy had to resign from the ministry in 2012 in the face of a statewide hue and cry for allegedly sheltering the accused persons.
Maharathy again became a minister in 2014. BJP activists across all urban centres in the state held candle light rally demanding resignation of Maharathy and handing over the case to CBI.