Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) deeply mourns the tragic death of Itishree Pradhan aged 27 who was a Sikhyak Sahayak at the Tikiri Upper Primary School
of Kashipur Block in Raygada district of Odisha
Her succumbing to 90% burn injuries and ultimate death is direct outcome of her taking up the offence of sexual harassment
at the hands of Netrananda Dandasena, the School Inspector
WSS offers its deepest condolence to her family, friends and colleagues.
WSS salutes Itishree Pradhan for her courage and persistence to bring to book the sexual harassment of the SI. Her courage is most inspiring even as she lost her life fighting against this grave injustice of sexual harassment at the workplace that women from all walks of life struggle in this patriarchal society
Let us have a look at the facts. Itishree Pradhan had registered a police complaint on July 18.
The district administration had conducted an enquiry that had held the SI guilty of his crime. After that, the SI absconded. The complainant had met the District Collector
, the State Women’s Commission and the Director General of Police
(DGP) in her pursuit of justice against the School Inspector.
On October 27, a person entered her hostel premises and asked her to withdraw the complaint. When she refused, he doused her with kerosene and set her on fire. As her condition became critical in the district hospital, the administration sent her to Visakhapatnam.
In the event of her death, the Chief Minister announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 10 lakhs, a Crime Branch
probe into the incident and the accused was arrested too. Alas, this is neither a real compensation for her life nor the means to cleanse the burden of guilt the Chief Minister, district administration, police and State Women’s Commission can get away with.
It is our view that had action been taken promptly as per the law, this young and courageous teacher would have not have had to lose her life. Instead of fulfilling his role and responsibility as a School Inspector, men like him abuse their power by wreaking violence in their official capacity and then allowed to remain unpunished. The vulnerability of the complainant had increased while the accusedI had been roaming scot free despite the police and the administration at every level from district to State had been approached for support. It is indeed a rare act of courage the persistent manner in which Itishree Pradhan has pursued her case.
However, by remaining silent and inactive after he went absconding, the local and state authorities allowed the offender to burn the complainant to death. De facto thus, they become accomplices in the crime. A vigilant state acting in the interest of women and ensuring their protection is a reality that is denied to working women across the country. The all pervasiveness of patriarchal violence calls upon every individual and collective effort, from the government to unions and professional associations, to act promptly in the event of a complaint made in the workplace, especially when the accused is a senior person and in a relatively more powerful position.
· We believe that it is upon us women to be organized in our struggle against violence so that no woman has to fight a lone battle.
· We call upon all teachers and working women to organize more systematically to offer support to each other knowing the patriarchal biases and slowness with which the elected representatives, the government and its institutions respond to this growing menace, if at all.
· We cherish the fighting spirit of Itishree Pradhan and countless women like her in the pursuit of justice.
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression
November 2, 2013