Bhubaneswar, Aug. 9: Protests erupted across the state today following death of the 15-year-old girl from Mahakalapada of Kendrapara district last night.
Two men allegedly raped her before setting her afire on July 28 at her village Khairnashi, in Mahakalpada police limits, about 50km from Kendrapara.
Her last rites were performed today in Puri amid tight security. The victim’s uncle lit the funeral pyre.
The victim was a Class VIII student. She was to be flown to New Delhi for treatment last evening. However, on her way to Biju Patnaik Airport here from SCB hospital in Cuttack, where she was undergoing treatment, the girl succumbed to her injuries. The body was then taken to Capital Hospital here.
Last night, Capital police station officer in-charge Aseem Panda, and not doctors, announced the death of the girl, a move that is not common.
As soon as the news of her death spread, spontaneous and violent reactions were reported from various parts of the city. Congress and BJP leaders rushed to Capital Hospital last night.
Violence broke out late at midnight, when the protesters ransacked Capital Hospital seeing the apathetic attitude of the administration. The mob turned violent, when the deceased’s father narrated that the administration had tried to hide the information of her daughter’s death.
“When we reached the airport about 7.35pm yesterday, I told the doctors that she was not moving. However, they left me at the airport and rushed to Capital Hospital. Since then, I had suspected something was wrong,” said Samir Bairagi, the deceased’s father.
As soon as Bairgi expressed his helplessness and broke down, hundreds of protesters went on the rampage. They damaged two ambulances and torched three vehicles at various places in the city. They also tried to forcibly enter chief minister’s residence Naveen Nivas. They demonstrated outside the health minister’s residence, too, accusing the state government’s failure to provide proper medical treatment to the girl.
As things went out of control, senior police officials, including director-general of police Prakash Mishra, special director-general Sanjeeb Marik and police commissioner Sunil Roy, rushed to the various areas from where violence was reported along with armed personnel. Throughout the night, both the police and the protesters continued to chase each other. Bhubaneswar (central) MLA Bijay Mohanty and Kendrapara MP Baijayant Panda also faced the protesters’ ire.
They sat through the night at the hospital and demanded exemplary punishment to the accused and adequate compensation for the bereaved families.
Following the incident, security has been beefed up around Naveen Nivas. “Situation is under control. We have deployed 20 platoons of police to restore law and order,” said Roy.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik condoled the death and announced an ex gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the girl’s family.
While the Congress pressed for the resignations of Naveen and health minister Damodar Rout, the BJP today called for a 12-hour statewide hartal on Saturday protesting the state government’s negligence to provide proper treatment to the deceased.
“The women wing of the state Congress will organise a civil disobedience movement on August 20 on the first day of the monsoon session, if Naveen babu and Rout do not step down,” said Congress president Jaydev Jena.
BJP state unit president K.V. Singh Deo said: “Inordinate delay in shifting the victim to Delhi lead to her death. We will organise a candlelight rally.”
On the other hand, Rout said: “The Opposition is trying to rake up the issue for political reasons.”
The two prime accused — Pradip Das, 21, and Ekadashi Das, 20, who are in judicial custody, will now face charges of murder.
“They were arrested under sections 307 (attempt to murder) and 376 (rape). But following her death, we have slapped Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code against the duo. The dying declaration of the victim has been recorded in the presence of a magistrate,” sub-divisional police officer of the Kendrapara human rights cell Shantanu Kumar Padhee said.
While a pall of gloom has descended on Kharnasi, the native village of the victim, people resorted to roadblocks in Kendrapada and many of its blocks.