1 20 MANUSHIT wenty-two years ago, thebrutal rape and murder ofChhabi Rani had sent shockwaves not only through Orissa butall over the country. There was ahuge popular upsurge in Orissademanding that the guilty bepunished. And yet it took more than22 years for only some of the guiltyto be held accountable for Kishore Mahapatra andChhabi Rani first met at Puri. She wasthen residing with her family, whilehe was studying Sanskrit. ChhabiRani s brother was in charge of theKrishna Balaram Math at Puri whileNaba Kishore was a tenant in theirhouse. Cupid struck and the coupletied the knot at the Shri Jagannathtemple at Puri.
2 Chhabi Rani wasBengali, originally a resident Naba and Chhabi wereunemployed after , the newly wed couplereturned to Naba s village Dhiasahiand from there moved to Biridivillage. There, he met some peoplewho suggested that he take up anewspaper agency. The ideaappealed to him and apart fromselling newspapers like Niakhunta,Durmukh and Nirbhika through hisagency, he and Chhabi Rani alsomade a foray into journalism. Nababecame a correspondent for thenewly launched paper Pragati Rani became a correspondentfor Durmukha paper, while he wrotefor Pragatibadi, Niakhunta a correspondent ofPragatibadi, Naba Kishore used tosend all the news in a truthful manner,and in the process invited the wrathof the rich and influential of the landlord of the village, Raju RaoDora was the wealthiestbusinessman of Biridi area.
3 Hehappened to be a moneylender tooand he had in his coterie localgoondas and a lot of local in the area needed money,borrowed from Raju Rao was essentially a blackmarketeer for cement, urea andpilfered rations from controlled rateshops. Naba reported that Raju usedto mix ashes with cement. He alsowrote about corruption at the Blockoffice, bungling in the distribution ofrice meant for relief purposes andcorruption by the Block DevelopmentOfficer. In the process, he invited thewrath of these people and thegoondas they village was then under thethumbs of two goondas belongingto the Congress Party NandaMohanty and Dibakar was the president of theBiridi Congress while NandaMohanty was the Working two were especially angrywith the couple.
4 However, the couplerefused to be cowed down and kepttheir honest, fearless Fateful DayNaba Kishore began his day earlyin the morning by distributing dailypapers in the village and wrote newsreports in the afternoon. The couplewas soon blessed with a son whomthey named Dani. Apart from theirprofessional work, they rarely eversocialized in the village. Thus lifewent on till the fateful day of 3rdOctober 1980, which doomed theirlives to a perennial nightmare. AsNaba disclosed in one of hisinterviews to a local magazine: Today, standing on the dust andashes of those memories, I do noteven have the strength to look back.
5 On that day, both of them woke upvery early in the morning, earlier thanusual, because they were to take thebus to Cuttack at am. ChhabiRani had to go to Durmukh s officeto get her identity card. She wore ayellow and red saree. They lockedthe house and left for the marketplace, planning to have breakfastthere. As they ordered breakfast,they noticed five men of the villageNaukul Behera, Baga Tanti, KeluDas, Madhab Tanti and Babaji Maniaadvancing towards them. Beforethey could figure out what washappening, one of them shouted ina threatening voice that before , they should meet DibakarNayak.
6 Naba Kishore informed themDefeating the Ends of JusticeSupreme Court s Indictment inChhabi Rani Rape and Murder Case Anjana MishraL. 21that he would meet Nayak in theevening as he was leaving forCuttack. The men threatened him thatthat would not do. Sensing from theirgestures and behaviour thatsomething was seriously wrong,instead of proceeding to Cuttack, thecouple returned home had they stepped inside thehouse when the angry men againsummoned them. Then Chhabi Raniasked them why if they had suchurgent work, could they not comeand meet them instead?
7 At thisquestion, the goondas wereoutraged and tried to force their wayinside the house. But they wereblocked by Chhabi Rani with akitchen knife and forced to , they soon returned withseveral others, including a localCongress politician, Sudhir Paridaand illicit liquor mafia don Bir Naba Kishore was draggedoutside and kicked and assaulted,Chhabi Rani was stripped of her goldchain and earrings. At that timeNanda Mohanty reached there andasked the goondas to take NabaKishore to the local Congress officesituated in the market place. NabaKishore was beaten and dragged allthe way to the local Congress was nine o clock in the morningwhen he was taken there and askedto sit on a stool.
8 Nanda Mohantyquestioned him about his policereport about a robbery at their housein the month of September. Thecouple was sleeping outside theirhouse when a group of people bargedinto their house. While one bashedup Naba Kishore, the others stole aleather suitcase from the house. Thenext day Naba Kishore filed a FirstInformation Report ( ) in the localpolice station. The police arrestedthree people Madhab Tanti, GudiaBarik and Babaji Mania. Others hadfled the scene. Local Congressleaders got the arrested ones releasedon bail. But they all vowed , Naba Kishore hadreported the incident in the paper,which further outraged them.
9 In theCongress office, Naba Kishore wasinitially threatened, asked towithdraw the theft case and warnedthat otherwise things would getdangerous for him. Initially, NabaKishore did not agree but later heacquiesced. Following theirinstructions, Naba wrote that histheft allegation was false. He alsosubmitted that he was writing thisof his own free will and not underduress from anybody. But thathardly ended his nightmare as hewas questioned on a trumped upcase about how he had cheated somemoney from village children. Nabaordered him to return money he hadnever taken.
10 As Naba Kishore staredin absolute surprise at this falseallegation, one of them remarked thathis wife s earrings could be sold andthe money recovered. As all thiswas happening, people had crowdedoutside the office. They were askedto disperse. As the people left, allCongress workers also left for last one to leave, Sudhir Parida,bolted the door from outside. NabaKishore had no option but to sitthere tired, and famished till pm. When Dibakar arrived hetold Naba Kishore that if he wantedto remain alive he should leave Biridiimmediately or he would have to facedire Kishore pleaded with themto give them at least a night s timebecause he was exhausted fromphysical abuse and hunger.