The Home Secretary,
We are disturbed and outraged at an incident in Odisha’s Kendrapada district, where the BDO of Rajakanika Block made a sexist and derogatory comment against women, and the instead of acting on the women’s complaint, the police force has instead admitted an FIR against a woman activist and is conducting raids to arrest her.
The sequence of events is as follows:
On 8th April, AIPWA’s Odisha Secretary Sabita Baraj along with 60 women activists of Rajkanika block, went to the local block office to protest regarding several local issues on the ‘grievance day’ declared by the local administration and Government. When they reached the Block office they found the gate closed, forcing them to wait outside in the severe heat. After two hours, the Block gate was opened by a peon and all the activists asked the BDO (block development officer) why the gate was closed on ‘grievance day’? The BDO told them, “Being women how can you dare to ask this question?” The women strongly protested this sexist comment by the BDO, and Sabita Baraj filed an FIR against the BDO.
After four hours the BDO filed cases against all the women activists, naming Sabita Baraj and charging them under Sections 506, 142, 148, 149, and 34A. But the police took no action against the BDO, and instead attempted to arrest Sabita Baraj and the other women activists based on the delayed FIR filed by the BDO. The police continues to conduct raids on the homes of CPI(ML) and AIPWA activists, searching for Sabita Baraj, with the SP of Kendrapada taking a special interest in doing so .
We would like to ask:
1) On an officially designated day for local people to raise grievances, why did the BDO keep the Block office gate shut for hours? Why have FIRs been registered against women for having defended their right as citizens to question the BDO about the gate being shut, defeating the purpose of grievance day?
2) What action has been taken against the BDO for insulting women and being derelict in his constitutional obligations to uphold citizens’ and women’s rights?
It is shocking and outrageous that a woman activist and rural women protestors are being persecuted with FIRs and threats of arrest, only because they asserted their rights and equality, and confronted the BDO for his shockingly anti-women remarks.
1) The FIR against Sabita Baraj and other women must be withdrawn with immediate effect.
2) Action must be taken against the BDO without further delay and he should be removed from the post pending enquiry.
3) The SP of Kendrapada must face disciplinary action for having colluded in pursuing false and fabricated complaints against women and trying to intimidate and terrorise women by seeking to arrest and jail them.
Ranjana, Kavita ,Kalpana, and Kamayani
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression