Officials hand-in-glove with the accused, says Opposition

Pressure is building up on Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati to take action against the Bahujan Samaj Party MLA from Naraini (Banda), Purshottam Naresh Dwivedi, who has been accused of raping a minor. The MLA has been suspended from the party by the Chief Minister till the completion of the CB-CID probe, but the Opposition parties have charged the Government with a cover-up.

Reports from Banda say a three-member team of the National Commission for Women is to visit the city on Saturday to record the rape victim's statement. Confirming this, the Congress MLA from Banda Sadar and UPCC general secretary Vivek Singh said on Thursday that he had received a call from the Commission informing him about the visit.

The Chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, P.L. Punia, has already sought a report on the Banda episode from the State Government. Mr. Punia has refuted the State Cabinet Secretary Shashank Shekhar Singh's comment that since the victim belonged to a Backward Class, the Banda issue was not under the purview of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.

Support from a cross-section of the political and social spectrum has been pouring in for the victim.

Dharna before jail

On Wednesday, members of the Gulabi Gang led by its commander Sampat Devi Pal sat on dharna at the Banda model jail where Dwivedi is incarcerated and demanded action against the MLA and district officials guilty of shielding him. Taking up cudgels for the victim, Ms. Pal warned the administration that if it failed to take action against the guilty, members of the Gulabi Gang would be compelled to settle the issue themselves.

The CB-CID ADG visited the Banda jail on Wednesday night and recorded the girl's statement. She was presented before the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate of Banda on Tuesday. After recording her statement, the court reportedly directed the Banda SP to lodge an FIR in the case. Her written statement accusing the MLA and three others of sexual assault was reportedly distributed to media persons in Banda. The MLA's statement has already been recorded by the investigating agency.

However, a new turn was sought to be given to the case when Mr. Dwivedi volunteered to be medically examined. Claiming that he was a patient of diabetes and blood pressure, the BSP MLA indicated to reporters in Banda that he was incapable (of sexual assault).

Accusing the Banda administration of trying to shield the MLA, Mr. Vivek Singh has assailed Superintendent of Police Anil Das for his failure to lodge an FIR despite the court order. Mr. Singh, who is the chairman of the Media Department of the U.P. Congress, said in a statement that as long as Mr. Das was the district police chief, the CB-CID would be unable to conduct an impartial inquiry.