Bhubaneswar: Her cry for justice had cost a Chief Minister his chair and the prime accused in her gang-rape case has been apprehended after 22 years, and yet Odisha’s Anjana Mishra says her “lonely” battle is far from over.
“It is crucial that the involvement of powerful politicians be exposed. The three accused assaulted me at their behest… I will get some sort of closure if the conspiracy angle is proved,” Anjana said in reaction to the arrest of Bibekananda Biswal alias Biban from Lonavala near Mumbai recently after remaining in hiding for 22 years.
Notably, Anjana had accused Biban and two others of raping her at gunpoint for nearly four hours on January 9, 1999. She further held that then Odisha Chief Minister JB Patnaik and State Advocate General Indrajit Ray were behind the attack on her.
It was the beginning of a tough battle for the then 29-year-old mother of two sons. “Two decades ago, a woman thus going public with rape charges, especially taking on the high and mighty, was unheard of,” she shared.
Soon after the gang-rape charges, Patnaik stepped down as CM. A CBI court in February 2000 upheld the attempt-to-rape allegation against Ray. She had even snubbed multiple offers to “compromise” and drop her charges against Ray, whom she had met regarding her divorce from her IFS husband.
Both Patnaik and Ray are dead now, but the rage just refuses to go. “When you are raped, your life is destroyed. However much you try to be normal, it (the pain) doesn’t go away. There is certainly rage and it will always be there,” the survivor said.
Now 51, Anjana admitted that her ongoing battle for justice is a far cry from what a high-scoring school student who pursued literature, and who got married at 17 to a man 13 years older, imagined for herself.
Even her family doesn’t want her attracting attention, and hence she is almost always indoors at her parents’ house, she says, refusing to meet the media. But she continues her fight, unabated.
Anjana can’t really explain what gave her the courage to go on. In 1996, she was found in a mental hospital in Ranchi, put there by her husband, and got out by approaching the State Human Rights Commission and social activists. When the divorce came through in December 2000, she lost custody of her two sons as she was not financially independent.
Mishra points out that it has not got any easier for women two decades later. “The judicial process is not easy,” she says. However, her advice is to not give up. “I have always believed that I deserve justice, and I will get it.”
Mishra hopes that the next legal battle that looms will finally lead to the CBI establishing the “conspiracy” angle. “He (Biban) will be questioned, tried and convicted. I want him to be hanged or to stay in prison for the rest of his life,” she said.
One of Anjana’s earliest supporters, Saila Behera, secretary of the Cuttack-based NGO Basundhara, says the political involvement in the case must be probed, The Indian Express reported.