Patnaik govt in a pickle as female cop blames suicide bid on DIG’s wife

The incident of alleged harassment and humiliation of a woman Home Guard, who lost both her legs following a suicide bid before a running train, at the hands of the wife of Talcher-based DIG B.K. Rai threatens to snowball into major political controversy, writes Arabinda Mohapatra

The controversy surrounding the alleged torture of a woman Home Guard who lost both her legs under the wheels of a running train after trying to commit suicide out of shame and frustration continues to snowball. This has also become a source of embarrassment for the Odisha government led by Naveen Patnaik which has already switched into the election mode.

The home guard Sairindri Sahu ( 47), a widow, is undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Cuttack. Following her allegations about alleged torture and humiliation at the hands of wife of Talcher-based north central range DIG,  Brijesh Kumar Rai, the officer has been shifted to the police headquarters in Cuttack. Sahu, who hails from Angul district, had been serving as a Home Guard for the last 19 years.

Sahu has alleged that she was continuously tortured by the wife of the DIG in whose house she was working. The DIG denied the allegations but the government shifted him in the interest of a fair probe. The issue has now taken a serious turn with human rights activist, Jayanata Das filing a complaint in this connection with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

In his complaint, Das has demanded stern action against the Police DIG and his wife and a compensation of Rs 30 lakh for the home guard. The petitioner demanded that the compensation amount be sourced from the salary of the police officer. The complaint was filed after the female home guard claimed that she lost both her legs in a suicide attempt after failing to bear the torture at the hands of Rai’s wife.

Sairindri alleged that the wife of DIG Rai asked her to do all kinds of menial work and tortured her in various ways including beating her up and even threatening her to take her job away. She didn’t even allow Sahu to take leave. Describing the sequence of events, the home guard said in her complaint that on a particular day, the DIG’s wife pushed her and asked her to go and end her life somewhere when she refused to wash some clothes.

Sources said that Sairindri had already informed about her ordeal to the Home Guard DG in writing on August 13. She alleged that no action has so far been taken in this regard. On the other hand, Rai termed the allegations brought against his wife as baseless and motivated. The officer said that Sahu had been upset due to family issues. She was never mistreated by his wife or any of his family members. He hinted that someone could have instigated the home guard to lodge a complaint against his family.

Sources said Sairindri had taken up the matter with not only the Home Guard DG but also with the Chief Minister, the Governor, the Secretary and other concerned officers. This seems to have made the issue all the more serious because while allegations have been made against a senior IPS officer, the complaint is supposed to have reached some of the most powerful people in the state who ought to have redressed the home guard’s grievances and provided her relief.

Significantly, the issue has taken a political turn with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) terming the incident as shameful. Senior BJP leader Lekhashree Samantsinghar said, “This is unacceptable. I condemn this and I demand strong action against the persons involved in this. Action should be taken so that such kinds of incidents never occur again.” The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA on the other hand said, “The government will definitely take action. It has never protected any wrong doing.”

It is significant to note that in her written complaint to state Home Guard Director General Sudhanshu Sarangi, Sahu had accused the senior IPS officer’s wife of verbally abusing her and beating her if she failed to perform her job properly.

While the 2009-batch IPS, Rai dismissed the allegations as motivated Sahu’s elder daughter, Suchismita, denied family issues being the reason behind her mother’s attempt to die by suicide. “My mother was upset because of the torture being inflicted upon her by the officer’s wife. Unable to come to terms with the stress, she decided to end her life,” she said.

Rai was transferred to the state police headquarters in Cuttack after the allegations were raised to ensure a fair probe. It may be mentioned that Rai had been promoted and transferred as DIG, north-central range, Talcher, in December 2022. The home guard Sahu was posted at his official residence. The DG (Homeguard) has asked the commandant, Home Guards, Angul, to look into the matter and submit a factual report on the issue. The Odisha Human Rights Commission has directed the state DGP to inquire into the allegations and submit a report by September 15.

According to the home guard, on the day of the incident — August 4 — the DIG’s wife asked her to wash some clothes. When she said she could not do that, as she had a leg injury, the officer’s wife allegedly dragged her out of the house by her neck and abused her, Sahu wrote in the complaint. She also stated that the humiliation, mental and physical torture prompted her to try and end her life. According to her complaint, Sahu had gone to the railway tracks to die by suicide and fell on the tracks due to strong vibration triggered by an approaching high-speed train. Although her body fell outside the tracks, her legs got crushed under the train’s wheels. In her complaint, Sahu has demanded compensation of Rs 5 lakh and a job as Home Guard for her elder daughter. The furore over the issue is unlikely to die anytime soon.