A 20-year-old Hindu woman Vidisha (name changed), a resident of Mirzapur Nathasahi village in Bhadrak district, Odisha, committed suicide after being molested by 65-year-old Muskin Sheikh, reported Rashtra Jyoti, a media initiative by Swati Goel Sharma and Sanjeev Newar. According to the report, Muskin Sheikh is a powerful, influential and well-connected person because of which the police have been protecting the accused.
The victim and her family were reportedly threatened with dire consequences by Muskin Sheikh and his sons after the police acted against Sheikh, following a complaint filed by the victim. Sheikh was arrested, however, released on bail a few days later.
The victim’s father told the media that they were under police pressure to take back their complaint against the suspect. Odisha Police allegedly cited the high profile contacts of Shiekh to intimidate them.
Though the police arrested Muskin Shiekh once again after Vidisha’s suicide, her family alleged that the police continue to shield the accused and are cooking up fake stories about their daughter.
Narrating what had transpired, the victim’s father Surendra (name changed) said on 2 August that his daughter had gone out with two of her friends to a Shiva temple in the Purana Bazar area around 9 AM. On her way home, Vidisha thought of buying chocolates for her two younger sisters from a nearby pan (betel leaf) shop. It was a hot day and so she asked her friends to wait under a tree until she returned.
Vidisha requested the elderly shopkeeper for Rs 5 worth of chocolates, but he urged her to take them out of the box herself. Then the shopkeeper, 65-year-old Muskin, grabbed her hand and dragged her into a narrow tunnel next to his shop as soon as she put her hand into the box.
Vidisha screamed, but Muskin raised the volume of the music playing in his shop to drown her voice in the noise, the victim’s father said.
“He (Muskin) touched my daughter inappropriately and tried to rape her. He tried to do bad things with her. She screamed and shouted for help but he covered her face with his hands,” said the distraught father as he choked.
Vidisha’s friends were worried when she did not return for long and began looking for her. They finally heard Vidisha’s cries and rushed to the shop. The accused was seen clutching the victim’s neck and covering her mouth with his hands. The two girls screamed for help and, in desperation, struck Muskin with their slippers, forcing Muskin to let her go.
The father confirmed that whatever information he was sharing was based on what he was told by his daughter. The victim’s friends, who had rescued her from Muskin Sheikh, have testified too.
The aggrieved father said that the accused had warned Vidisha to not disclose what had happened with her. He threatened to kill Vidisha’s kin if she did not pay heed to the warning, reminisced the father.
Vidisha narrated her ordeal to her mother Shravanti (name changed), who in turn, informed her husband when he returned home from work.
The father lodged an FIR (number 0264/2021) at the Purana Bazar police station after learning about the incident.
On the basis of Vidisha’s statement, the police arrested Muskin and charged him with violating Sections 341 (wrongful restraint), 323 (voluntarily causing harm), and 354 (outraging a woman’s modesty) of the Indian Penal Code, said the father, adding that this was just the beginning of their ordeal.
No state for a Hindu
Among the states with a minuscule Muslim population, Odisha still has a police force that puts pressure on the Hindu victim’s family to withdraw the complaint and ‘settle the matter’ with the family of the accused. The Muslim family has reportedly offered monetary compensation.
At the same time, Muskin’s sons Sameer and Tunnu are allegedly threatening the Hindu family with dire consequences if they do not take back their complaint.
Vidisha’s father recalled how the threats became more frequent after Muskin was let out on bail. When the threats became an everyday affair, Vidisha could not handle the pressure and took the drastic decision of ending her life on 8 August in the morning.
The distressed father said that since Muskin was re-arrested after Vidisha’s death under IPC Section 306 (abetment to suicide), the police have been concocting stories to defame Vidisha and save Muskin.
He said that the police have been trying hard to prove that Vidisha “was in love” with a boy with whom she was in touch over mobile calls and that she ended her life when the relationship did not work out. Vidisha’s father, however, said the alibi of the accused is false as Vidisha did not even own a mobile phone.
Odisha Police inspector Prakash Chandra Prusty, who is probing the case, refused to respond to queries related to the case.
After the news spread, many Hindu outfits, including Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), protested and held candlelight marches to ensure justice for Vidisha.