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Ignored By Media And Courts: The Unsolved Murder Of A Teacher From Odisha

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Going through the social media buzz of Constitution Day, my eyes fell upon a report that took me back to question myself, on where the words of our Preamble stand today. The report highlights the closure of the Itishree Pradhan murder case. On November 24, 2017, the Supreme Court closed the high profile murder case of a teacher in Odisha named Itishree Pradhan, after the CBI, which was probing the case, failed to identify the culprits, who allegedly torched Itishree.

What Happened On That Unfortunate Night?

Itishree Pradhan, a government teacher at a primary school, in Tikiri (Rayagada, Odisha) was harassed by Netrananda Dandosena, who happened to be the ex-sub inspector of the school. Unable to bear the harassment anymore, she lodged written reports against the accused as well as his family members. Not so surprisingly, no action was taken against the culprits. Then, she made an appeal to various authorities and bodies for help.

At the same time, the accused left no stone unturned in harassing her in various ways, to ensure the backoff or withdrawal of the complaints. The allegations further disclose that on October 27, 2013, at about 9.20 PM when the victim was listening to music, an unknown culprit entered the room of the victim and threatened her to withdraw the cases against the accused persons. When she reluctantly declined, the culprit poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze.

She was taken to a hospital where the medical officer administered preliminary treatments and apprehending her near demise, recorded her dying declaration. The victim was referred to the District Headquarters Hospital for specialized treatment. The matter was then reported to the police and the Tahasildar-cum-Executive Magistrate, Rayagada also recorded a dying declaration. The deceased was thereafter referred to Seven Hills Hospital at Visakhapatnam where she succumbed to the severe burns on November 1, 2013.

Four Years On And The Mystery Remains Unsolved

After the news broke, some actions were taken, but the most effective ones were left untouched.

  • The Rayagada district sessions judge and special sessions court sentenced former school sub-inspector Netrananda Dandasena – to life term imprisonment.
  •  The incident had shocked the state with allegations that the police had tried to cover up the incident to protect the power holders and politicians of the state.
  • Though the lady teacher before death has said that the person who poured kerosene and set her on fire was someone other than Dandsena, family members of the deceased lady teacher pointed an accusing finger towards Jayaram Pangi. Pangi, a former BJD veteran from that locality who later took shelter in BJP.
  • Basing on the victim’s statement, we suspect that someone other than Netrananda Dandsena was involved in the case,” the CB official said, adding that the teacher had lodged a molestation case against Dandsena in July.
  • After protests and additional pressure from the media and activists over the lady teacher’s death, the state government had ordered a crime branch probe.
  •  Later a law student, Sudipta Lenka of Bengaluru, filed a PIL in the Supreme Court on January 20, 2015, following which a CBI probe was ordered into the murder of Itishree.

After many interrogations and the showcase of the investigation, the case still remains dead to the answers of who killed Itishree. On November 24, the Supreme Court closed the Itishree murder case after the CBI remained clueless about the unidentified accused. The BJD said that the saffron party used the central investigating agency to save former Koraput MP Jayaram Pangi, who has joined the BJP. The state and democracy has itself failed to deliver justice and has lost its credibility.

Years have passed since India got its Constitution, but today, I recall the three warnings of Ambedkar. On November 25, 1949, he expressed the need to give up the grammar of anarchy, to avoid hero-worship, and to work towards a social – not just a political – democracy in order to achieve the real freedom. Today, the core ideas of equality and justice remain blurred.In a democratic and progressive nation, where women are being crowned as Ms World, there is another part of the country, where many more Itishree live and die each day.

As the highest authority of justice, closes the unsolved, unjust murder of Itishree’s chapter, I wonder how far we have successfully assassinated the half-dead Constitution.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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