Bhubaneswar: Minister Energy, Industries and MSME, Dibya Shankar Mishra Friday claimed that he has nothing to do with the offence even as opposition BJP and Congress staged demonstrations across districts demanding his removal from the Council of Ministers.
The opposition parties shifted their focus and targeted Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who also holds the Home portfolio. A three member Central team of BJP led by party’s Mahila Morcha president Vanathi Srinivasan met the deceased lady teacher’s family at their village in Bolangir while saffron party’s youth wing activists scuffled with police in different parts of the state during the demonstration.
Mr.Mishra’s name has been in the eye of the storm since the prime accused escaped from the police custody on October 17 night. The Minister was accused of shielding the prime accused, also the president of the private school where the lady teacher was working, for having his close proximity.
Though the Minister all along remained silent till late of Friday, he issued a two-page statement claiming his innocence. “I swear in the name of Maa Manikeswari on whom I as well as people of Kalahandi, have deep faith in, that I have nothing to do with this (lady teacher killing) offence,” the minister said adding that he left the high paying job of a pilot and joined politics to serve the people of Junagarh and Kalahandi.
The Minister’s statement came barely some hours after the BJP delegation met the victim’s family and party’s Bhubaneswar MP Aparajita sarangi demanding clarification from the Chief Minister. Ms.Sarangi asked the Chief Minister to come out and face the people instead of running the government on ‘proxy.’ “Let the CM lead the state from the front and announce in public that his minister is innocent,” the firebrand Bhubaneswar MP told reporters.
“I am deeply saddened and anguished by the unfortunate death of the lady teacher. I am a father and I can understand the trauma the family must be going through, My deepest condolences to the family of the teacher. The guilty must be given strictest punishment as per law,” the Minister said.
Mr.Mishra also did not forget to mention in the statement that he worked in the Armed Forces. “In the Air Force, I learnt one thing, to sacrifice oneself but to ensure that not one civilian is hurt. When I joined politics, I brought the same philosophy from my Air Force days. That though I suffer, not even a single person should suffer. From the time I entered public life, I have focused on the development of my constituency, Junagarh in Kalahandi,” he said.
Stating that he was shocked over the manner in which certain media have launched a “malicious character assassination” campaign based on falsehood and hurt his family, Mr.Mishra said: “My family has filed criminal and civil defamation case against three media groups for defaming and character assassination with false, malicious and wild allegations for furthering their narrow personal and political gain.”
“I would urge the opposition political parties and media, if you have an iota of evidence against me in this matter, then please take it to the police or the courts. I will not only resign from my position but will also retire from public life but don’t indulge in smear campaigns with personal political agenda,” he said.
He also clarified the reason behind his silence all along. “I have always believed that in sensitive heinous offences, law enforcement agencies should act in a free and fair manner so that the accused meet the ends of justice. Hence, I always avoided commenting on the heinous offence. But I felt the need to give a statement as this smear campaign has been affecting my family,” he said.
Referring to his visit to the prime accused’s educational institute at Mahaling in Kalahandi district, the minister clarified that as an MLA and an ex-Air Force officer, he has attended functions at many educational institutions. “Therefore, a crime happening in any one of the institutions that I have visited as a guest for a function cannot be attributed to me,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the BJP delegation comprising Mahila Morcha Chief Vanathi Srinivasan, MP Sunita Duggal and MLA from West Bengal Sreerupa Mitra Chaudhury, had an hour long discussion with the family members of the victim, who went missing on October 8 and her body was exhumed from 10 feet deep in the school play ground on October 19.
“We will submit the on-the spot finding report to BJP president J P Nadda Ji and demand the resignation of the minister. The police have cooked up the story and served it to the people. There should be a CBI probe into the incident,” Srinivasan said while MP Sunita Duggal said they support the victim’s family’s demand of death sentence for the culprits.
Meanwhile, BJP Yuva Morcha activists staged demonstrations at different districts and had a scuffle with police during a protest outside SP office in Berhampur. The activists broke the barricades and hurled eggs, tomatoes at police personnel who tried to stop them from entering the police station.
While one police man was injured in the scuffle, the security personnel picked up the protesters to avoid any further untoward incidents.
The party has also planned to stage demonstration before all 625 police stations across the state in the next three days and file FIR against Minister of State for Home demanding his arrest in the lady teacher murder case.
A day after the party’s central delegation’s visit, senior Congress leader Bhakta Charan Das, who hailed from Kalahandi district, said the party will further intensify if the Minister is not sacked and arrested by October 30.
All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO) also staged a demonstration.