The drafts for Rs 20 lakh sent to Anjana Mishra by an unknown person have added a new twist to a two-year rape case.
By Ruben Banerjee
Anjana Mishra has got used to receiving fan mail. Ever since her name first hit the headlines in July 1997 -- for accusing the then Orissa advocate-general (AG) Indrajit Ray of attempting to rape her -- sympathy for her has translated into letters of support for her courage in taking on the high and mighty in the state. But nothing prepared Mishra for what the postman brought her on June 18. As she tore open one of the envelopes, she stared in disbelief: it contained banker's cheques (drafts) worth Rs 20 lakh made out in her name.
Though Mishra has no clue to who sent her the money or why, she feels the cheques are yet another attempt to buy her silence in the rape case against Ray. The dates on the cheques seem to corroborate the charge. Mishra was to give an important deposition before the court on June 7, 8 and 9 in the case against Ray and the first set of cheques were dated May 28 and the second set June 2. But if they were meant to bribe her into silence for the court hearing, they were too late because she received them nearly 10 days after deposing before the court against Ray. The mysterious appearance of the cheques at this juncture has added a new twist to the case that has been the cynosure of public interest for the past two years.
The two-year fight for justice has been rather tough for the indomitable Mishra, though she's had some success. A few days after her complaint against Ray, the case was handed over to the CBI for investigation. Her accusation ultimately cost Ray his job as the AG and even the then chief minister J.B. Patnaik drew flak for allegedly shielding Ray. With public resentment against Patnaik growing due to the case, he was eventually forced to resign after the murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines. Even as the case -- the CBI has completed its probe -- reached a CBI-designated court, Mishra received another jolt. She was gangraped on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar in January this year. She had called it an attempt to intimidate her into silence. Today, after the new twist in the case, she says, "They failed to break me down in the past. Therefore they are now trying to entice me with bribes."
Though two weeks have passed since the drafts appeared, the CBI has yet to begin investigation into who posted the cheques and why because Mishra has not complained, only notified the CBI. She may formally complain in the near future. Moreover, the CBI needs a court directive to begin the probe. However, sources in the CBI, and the two banks where the cheques were made -- UCO and Vysya -- revealed that Rs 20 lakh was debited from accounts held by Ray and his close relatives to these banks. But Ray has refused to say anything on the matter. "The main case is in progress and it is not prudent for me to comment now," he said. However, he demanded a judicial enquiry into this new twist in the case, hinting that someone was trying to implicate him by debiting money from his account towards the drafts. "Why should I waste money by trying to bribe her after she has already deposed against me in court?"asks Ray. He has a point there because in her June deposition before the court, Mishra stood her ground and repeated the charges of attempted rape against the former AG. Moreover, even if Ray wanted to bribe Mishra, why do it through banker's cheques? They are easy to trace.
It defies logic. Meanwhile, the state is rife with speculations about the motives behind the cheques. Some say the cheques were a gamble to sneak in money to her in the garb of donations. If she had fallen for the bait and accepted the money, Ray may have portrayed her as a blackmailer and she could have been booked under Section 213 of the IPC for trying to screen an offender (Ray). This would have weakened her case in court. The argument may seem a bit desperate but the stakes are high. The court in Bhubaneswar is close to wrapping up the hearings and there is not much time left before the verdict. The CBI has already found prima facie evidence that the forensic report of Mishra's torn clothes was tampered with. The Orissa High Court has directed the CBI to take necessary action and the bureau has sought permission from the state Government to prosecute those found prima facie guilty, but the green signal has yet to come.
Meanwhile, Mishra's ordeal, in full public glare, goes on. In rather an inexplicable turn, even her parents have turned hostile and have lodged police complaints, accusing her of robbing them of mental peace. But Mishra seems equal to anything the case and fate may have in store for her. Taking her opponents by surprise with her revelation about the cheques, she has now decided to encash them. "Why shouldn't I? They are in my name," she says. If the money was meant to trap her, she might well swallow the bait and yet remain unscathed. For the time being, at least.
© Living Media India Ltd