The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dying statement accuses husband of injecting HIV

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 18: Rajani Rao, a 32-year-old housewife in Orissa’s Nabrangpur town who had tested positive for HIV, died on Sunday after a two-year battle against the “lethal virus” allegedly injected into her by her husband of 12 years.

Rajani’s eight-year-old son, Srihari, and four brothers were at her bedside during her last moments as she lay haggard and emaciated at her paternal home.

But Rajani’s case was not merely a statement of a man’s cruelty towards his wife. It also showed the will of a wronged woman to fight back.

Twelve years into marriage, life had apparently become hell for Rajani. Her husband, Venkata Ramana Babu, an assistant teacher in neighbouring Raygada district, was reportedly torturing her for dowry.

After being allegedly driven out of her husband’s house two years ago, she had moved Jagriti, the women’s grievance cell of the Nabrangpur district administration.

Venkata Ramana took her back following the intervention of a young district collector, Arabinda Padhee. But the torture did not stop, as Rajani alleged in her dying declaration before an executive magistrate a few days before she succumbed to the disease.

“Rajani could have died due to AIDS. It’s not yet clear if her husband injected her with a lethal shot of HIV injection. But prima facie, cruelty by the husband is more than evident,” Padhee told The Telegraph.

The district administration has sent samples of her blood to the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) for confirmation of the presence of HIV in her blood.

In her dying declaration under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code, Rajani alleged that she was “injected” with the virus in 2001, when her husband took her back to his home. She told police that one day she was beaten up by Venkata Ramana and two other persons and then injected with some drug. Her husband later allegedly threw her out.

She became ill a few days after she returned to her paternal house with Srihari, then six years old. When one of her brothers took her to a private medical institute in Visakhapatnam for treatment in March 2001, she tested positive for HIV. She was prescribed some medicines, but her condition did not improve.

Again in October last year, her brother took her to King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam where she again tested positive.

Though she was there till December, the doctors did not give her much of a chance. In January, she was back in Nabrangpur.

During her treatment at the hospital, Rajani had alleged that she was tortured by her husband for more dowry. Her neighbours say Venkata Ramana was in love with one of his students and apparently wanted to get rid of his wife.

Rajani’s brother has filed a dowry harassment case in Nabrangpur police station against Venkata Ramana, who is absconding with his paramour. He has already been suspended from his job.

Yesterday, Padhee gave Rs 20,000 to Rajani’s family members as assistance from the government. Another Rs 1 lakh has been assured for the upbringing of Srihari, now a student of Arabinda Integral School in Khatiguda.

A public interest litigation has been filed in Orissa High Court over Rajani’s torture. The court has directed the state government to conduct an inquiry and submit a report.

Last month, Rajani had written to the National Human Rights Commission for justice. Only, she won’t be around when it comes.

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