Mamita Meher murder case: Plain truth out

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Mamita Meher murder case: Plain truth out

Thursday, 28 October 2021 | BISWARAJ PATNAIK

Mahaling is a nondescript little village of Kalahandi district, 67 km away from the headquarters town Bhawanipatna. It has a population of 3,076 from 831 families. Khariar Road, 13 km away, is the nearest town that supplies all kinds of day-to-day materials including non-grain food stuff. One Govinda Sahu, a successful civil contractor in the area, owns a lot of landed property which lay vacant for long. A few sensible locals persuaded Sahu to make available some land to put up a much-needed science college. The idea appealed to him and he agreed to let his land be used provided they made him a member of the governing body. The noble-minded guys agreed and the college came up with ungrudging public support and became immensely popular. Sahu’s typical cash-crazy brain decided to put up a feeder English medium school also much in demand across Mahalinga panchayat. Thus an ownership Sunshine English medium school was put up to be managed like a shop. Sahu did not have to report to any other creature for critical decisions.

The Mahaling college is run absolutely by the chosen committee. It is a public property with routine grants from the Government and occasional support from MP LAD Fund, Western Odisha Development Corporation funds and similar other sources as the college gained reputation too soon. Customarily, the post of president is rotational. No wonder, the moneyed Govinda Sahu too had his turn of being president whom the other governing body members would naturally succumb because he could convince authorities and officials easily owing to his solvent status. The Sahu fellow did not understand law or prevailing norms. So, he grabbed all civil contract and supply jobs of the college to make some easy money. That a core member being a vendor for the organisation creates a conflict of interest issue, no one could ever figure out. The cunning Sahu purposefully projected himself as the boss of the college and got away due to his access to Government officials and money. Many locals could never realise the fact that the Sunshine school was his personal property whereas the Mahaling college belongs to the public and is treated like a Government entity all around the place. It is affiliated to the Sambalpur University and routinely governed by the Higher Education Department as per rules. Political bigwigs including former Union Minister Bhakta Das, MLAs and more would visit the college as dignitaries at functions, which is no crime by any parameter. Quite naturally, Sahu took lead in all college liaison and public relations activities because he was an accepted community key man. On record, maximum visits have been made by former MPs and MLAs from the contiguous or surrounding constituencies mainly because the college is a very reputed institution in the district. Adhiraj Panigrahi, Congress MLA, like Bhakta Das, is close to Mahaling college, which is just fine. During the pandemic years too, these two dignitaries have visited the college quite often for their appreciation of the institution and maybe their intimacy with Sahu.

Coincidentally, the Minister of State for Home, most certainly without unbridled power or authority in police matters, belongs to the district. So, the college committee would feel proud to have him as chief guest or a person of high dignity whenever big functions or celebrations would happen. This basic truth is probably not known or intentionally ignored by the detractors of the Naveen Patnaik administration.

Govinda Sahu had employed as principal of his personal school one Mamita Meher, a woman from the neighbouring Balangir district. The school is not even a high school. It has facilities for up to Standard-8 only. Not surprisingly, Mamita would have free access to the college campus and authorities as the campuses are separated by a single wall or two and Govinda is a committee member apart from being land owner.

Mamita suddenly went missing on October 8. Her family members lodged a complaint with police accusing Govinda for she was openly opposing Sahu’s ignoble escapades for quite some time. Between October 8 and 14, Govinda kept roaming the streets as a gentleman. Because of his high local stature, police would not ever imagine the school owner Sahu would have anything to do with his own school principal’s disappearance. But Mamita’s family kept alleging vehemently  that Sahu was sexually harassing women employees of the school, which was being opposed by Mamita who had only days before warned Sahu of exposing him and bringing him to book. The public outcry turned furious and police was forced to pick and detain Sahu for questioning at the Titilagarh police barrack.

No one knows how the lights went out and Sahu escaped from the washroom to be tracked down from a sugarcane field miles away. The nearly-acceptable truth is known publicly by now. Only court verdicts are awaited.

At this juncture, it would be unfair to pin Home Minister Dibya Shankar Mishra down as accessory in the whole affair because the college committee has made it amply clear that neither the Minister was close to any member nor he ever paid regular visits to the campus, let alone stay nights over. He came to the college one last time in January 2020 along with two other senior Ministers for a function. In his inspirational address to the audience, he had said ‘he feels great to be amid young people as that transports him to youthful days’. Incidentally, only Bhakta Das and Adhiraj Panigrahi had paid visits to the college in recent months, surely for noble reasons.

Opposition members are so excited to hear Dibya Shankar’s name mentioned as an accomplice in the murder case that they have not rested or eaten well since Mamita died.

The college committee members say there is no good enough space to accommodate a dignitary in the campus. Even if the Minister were a debauch or lecher, he would have scores of joints to relax in. The college campus would even not be the last resort. Most significantly, every member of the Naveen Patnaik administration knows just too well that a single errant activity means instant dismissal. The worst grade fool would not  risk that deadly penalty!

The hue and cry over the Mamita matter should have died down the moment Govinda Sahu confessed to the crime. Even if police is lax and Sahu-friendly, that would be whipped to make course correction and dig out the facts which is certainly not as complicated as learning rocket science.

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