Hopes Pinned On Governor J.B.Patnaik for Revolutionary Changes in Assam

Journalist and Media Consultant Ms. Teresa Rehman had a meeting with Assam Governor Sri J.B.Patnaik in the Raj Bhawan.

Sri Patnaik has made a revolutionary change in Assam’s age-old tradition of disallowing entry of women into Vaishnavite monasteries. Teresa was felicitated recently at Bhubaneswar for having reported this.

She is known for highlighting gender sensitive events. We are glad to share her impression on JB with our esteemed readers.

Its rare that one comes across a candid head of the state who smiles at a journalist who breaks all protocols. As I land in his official bungalow with my four-month old daughter, I am apologetic. But I also reiterate that ‘once you stop children from coming you are actually stopping a woman’. To this His Excellency, the Governor of Assam J B Patnaik, smiles and says, “Oh, so your daughter wants to see the world.”

Such a response was not unusual as Patnaik is credited to breaking a long-established taboo — entry of women to a Vaishnavite monastery in Assam. He created a flutter by leading a group of women to the monastery and talks animatedly about the issue which is so close to his heart. He had succeeded in doing what leading women like former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and literary stalwarts such as Amrita Pritam, Nabaneeta Deb Sen, and Mamoni Raisom Goswami failed to do. He invited me to the Raj Bhawan as soon as he got to know that I was awarded the Laadli Award for Gender sensitivity 2011 for writing on his initiative.

The humble statesman who is also a Sanskrit scholar politely says, “I am a student of Sanskrit.” Citing the scriptures, he explains that nowhere is it written that women should not be allowed into religious places. We also discussed the taboos for women in other religious places including a mosque and the concept of purity and pollution which is applicable for both men and women. He says, “In fact, women are more conscious when they are having their monthly period and impose restrictions on themselves. Women cannot be considered impure at all times.”

With a progressive Governor at the helm of affairs, one can expect some revolutionary changes — at least of the deep-seated patriarchal mindset.

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Narayan Patra Succeeds in Shifting His Daughter’s Murder Matters to A New Special Bench

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Narayan Patra, known crusader against illegalities resorted to in forums of Law, has succeeded in shifting his case in the matter of murder of his daughter from a bench that he had suspected to be prejudiced against him, to a new bench specially constituted to hear his case by the High Court of Orissa.

Patra’s daughter Kalyani, married to Atmaram Sahu of Talcher in 1994, was found dead on 14 July 1995 in her father-in-law’s house. Thousands of the people of the locality had obstructed her cremation by the Sahu family as they were rushing towards the cremation ground without informing her father of her death. Clearly they were suspicious of the crime. They forced Kalyani’s father-in-law Chittaranjan Sahu to bring Patra to see his daughter before her cremation and to inform the police also of her sudden death.

Patra, on call under a different pretext, reached Talcher in the afternoon to see his daughter’s body lying on the outer yard of Chittaranjan, who told him that Kalyani had been to the bath room in early morning and as she did not come out for a long time, he forced open the toilet door and found her dead lying on the floor on her back with her face towards the roof. He said, she perhaps had slipped and succumbed instantly to head injury. Chittaranjan had informed of this even to the police in writing, which was treated as FIR under the IPC that gave birth to the original criminal case as post-mortem investigations revealed that she had succumbed to strangulation.

As the sahu family went underground, a murder case instituted against them, the then Chief Minister J.B.Patnaik had to inform Orissa Legislative Assembly that the Sahu family being wealthy and well connected, it was difficult to locate at whose house they were hiding. However, he had assured the House that the absconders should soon be apprehended.

Attempts were made from the underground to obtain anticipatory bail orders. Even government pleaders were gained over to convince the trial court that the death was not homicidal, but suicidal. Attempts were even made to mislead the High Court and occasions so arrived when Patra found no other way than openly raising allegations against certain judges’ on ground of corruption in granting bail to Kalyani’s in-laws that were hit by sessions trial. Vigilant Patra, always alertly watching the development, foiled those attempts at the cost of contempt proceedings.

In the meantime, Chittaranjan died. Many suspect that his family killed him to put him away from examination in the court as otherwise, his FIR to the extent that Kalyani was found lying on the bathroom floor obviously succumbing to accidental slipping, could have spoiled their plea that her death was suicidal and she had hanged herself that left the scar on her neck.
However, the trial court ultimately held that her death was homicidal, not suicidal. But while punishing Kalyani’s husband with life imprisonment, it awarded a minor punishment on her mother-in-law.

Patra had preferred a criminal revision in the High Court against the leniency shown to the culprits by the sessions court; but to his shock, he also smelt a rat there, for which he had been insisting upon special hearing of his case.

The present Chief Justice V.Gopal Gowda has constituted a special bench comprising Justice I.Mohanty and H.S.Bhalla to hear Patra’s criminal revision. The new bench has started the hearing on 15 february, Patra, not a professional lawyer, has been conducting his case, considered a classic instance of a father’s love and responsibility for his murdered daughter.