Deferred Live From ‘Pipili’



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The alleged gangrape in Odisha’s Pipli area is surely one of the many incidents in the country which has, though symbolically, exposed the fact that the future now belongs to a dispensation that can distort, suppress and finish a truth. The way the issue is being twisted out from its moral premise and dumped into political vandalism does suggest that the people in power are now the masters of a reverse social pyramid that presents a disturbing picture for the future safety of the society.

Someone is in coma and perhaps dying a slow death. And some people are engaged in deductions, thrashing theories about the veracity of the allegations and a section is working overtime to suggest that there was no rape at all. One opinion which sounds acceptable is that the young girl was subjected to brutal torture, her neck twisted, body battered and then abandoned half-naked in an open field. But every other day the opinions are being scrapped for new ones or sometimes they are being altered and sometimes are just being done away with as nonsense.

In disregard to the ongoing probes, a notion has already been structured that she was never subjected to any sexual abuse. And what seems imminent that there is an undercurrent of exigency trying to see that the new opinions somehow have to be stretched to the legal premise so that they appear fit for cognizance.

The state’s Commission for Women (SCW) very recently came out with a report in which the chairperson appeared to have taken refuge in conjectures rather than her composure and patience. By saying that there was no hint of any rape or gangrape within the available documents the SCW chairperson, Dr Jyoti Panigrahi surely risked the dangers of an arbitration in the days to come. Be it her ignorance or the evident poor communication skills, she has appeared like an irrational idolater in the face of a situation which is extremely delicate.

While day in and day out an incident of rape or gangrape does deal a moral blow, the government goes gaga celebrating its good work in the field of law and order unmindful of the bottom reality. One report said that during the period 2009-10 Odisha reported more than ten thousand rape incidents, let alone the unreported ones.

Legal and intellectual luminaries rightly argue that the unfailing regularity in rape incidents is due to the tardy implementation of law. But political executives and bureaucrats presiding in the close-room tutorials are always in a hurry to paint their critics as shrill, vacuous and pitiless. One of the most shocking incidents which still agitates public mind was forced to get mired in a very regressive political and executive dragnet laid deliberately to smoothen its rough edge in view of the panchayat polls in the state.

A girl was bundled away, gangraped, brutally assaulted, her neck twisted and then abandoned. The enormity of the trauma was so intense that she lost her speech and slipped into coma. And she has been in the same state for over two months now. Silence closed in on that house in Pipli’s small village, briefly punctuated by the weeping of family members or, occasionally, by the stentorian breathing of the victim resonating throughout the small shelter made of mud and polythene.

For once, the entire state stands diminished before that speechless girl. The police and administration are now caught in a quagmire of shame. Politics has hotted up and the politicians are on the prowl trying to make political capital out of this sordid tale. While some have brazenly tried to downplay the moral side by going out of context, the ones in power dub the hypes as a tactical manoeuvre by the opponents to make things tougher for the ruling party . Except the victim of this barbaric incident, rest all speak!

Where were the people of that area for over 45 long days crucifying transition for the victim between the incident and coming out of it to limelight through the media? The silence of the political opposition in Pipli was no less perplexing.

When the family of the victim tried to speak through the law, a thing so dear to the chief minister of Odisha, they were allegedly silenced by the usual flip-flops of the local police and the matter remained unnoticed even by the Puri’s then Superintendent of Police for over a month, a man with a mammoth intelligence network at his command.

The SCW, which now tries to claim moral legitimacy by cooking up a half-baked findings, shows its siege mentality and a significant erosion of the moral the institution is bestowed with. As if the shocked family was trying to do something out of turn against a system that now seems unwilling to brook any unilateral pluck of guts.

The SP had no explanation to offer and the officer in charge of the Pipli police station, as usual, had demonstrated arrogance and impatience for the common man.

Even the conduct of the doctors at the government hospitals was more reprehensible and what was more loathsome, was the attitude. The patient’s family was told that the patient had seven days of life left, so there is no point in admitting her in a hospital! Who were the doctors and why have they not been made to explain?

That was the state of affairs after 45 days of severe consternation the victim had to go through. The insensitivity displayed by the main government hospital in the state capital, Bhubaneswar, was just horrendous. The victim, then in a vegetative state, was taken to a relative on the outskirts of the capital city, where managing two square meal a day is a daily adventure.

Who were those doctors indulged in that perfidious act of neglect? Why have they not been taken to the books? A patient who had her vital faculties benumbed by a shock was a challenge for any doctor, not a liability. It was in fact an opportunity for the doctors who really made a dog’s breakfast of their positions.

It was a long gap between the day she was denied admission and when she was again brought for treatment on the diktat of the High Court. What were the health minister or health secretary doing?

The issue might have had a quiet burial but for the media the cry for justice reached a crescendo and was heard by the High Court. Before that the intervention by the Human Rights Commission did not have the due impact on the thick-skinned police or the administrative apparatus whose mental faculties seemed lolling in a luxury of inactivity for over one and half months.

Either it was just an imperious gesture on the part of the state machinery or the colossal ignorance of the sensitivity of the issue, the matter was tossed into the pending tray in the guise of a judicial probe. The officer-in-charge of the Pipili police station was first transferred and when pressure mounted, he was placed under suspension and then dismissed. But why the officer alone? What moral legitimacy does the SP has to escape a probe into his alleged role of a silent onlooker for 45 days?

Now the officer-in-charge has been dismissed from service and the SP has been transferred. By doing so the state government has yet again lost the high moral ground it claims all the while.

There can be a moral equivalence between the two issues; the unaccountable proclivity of the OIC and the complete detachment of the SP from such a storm that blew over 45 days. Once the matter entered the political domain, what was more manifested was the bellicosity of the ruling party to stifle the edge and indulge in a shocking procrastination for over a week before the chief minister ordered a judicial probe which is viewed as a mere palliative rather than a cure.

While waiting for the reports of either the AIIMS or the National Commission for Women or the state Crime Branch or even the judicial probe, the victim still breathes; breathes beyond the cynical prescription of the government doctors who had given her a 7-day lease of life.