Bharatiya Janata Party vice-president Baijayant Panda and his wife, Jagi Mangat Panda, on Saturday accused the Biju Janata Dal government in Odisha of orchestrating cases against them out of political vendetta even as the BJD refuted the allegations of a witch-hunt.
Alleging that the state government has been targeting their family for speaking out against alleged corruption in the state, Panda’s wife said, “It is no secret that ever since my husband Jay Panda started speaking out about the BJD’s widespread corruption five years ago, and joined the BJP, the Odisha government and BJD have been targeting and harassing our family and the organisations connected with us, including actual violence against us on several locations.”
She said that the Odisha police were filing false cases against them and the companies associated with them. “In the past two months, the Odisha police have registered about 20 false cases against OTV, its sister companies, employees and my family members, including my 84-year-old father,” she said.
Her statements have come a day after the Orissa high court lifted the interim protection from arrest of the BJP leader and his wife, along with the managing director of their TV channel OTV, in connection with a fraudulent land transaction.
On Friday, a single judge bench of the Orissa HC vacated its interim stay on the arrest of the couple while rejecting their petition to quash the FIR filed in connection with the land transaction of Odisha Infratech Pvt Ltd. Panda and his wife are promoters of the company.
According to the FIR, filed by the Economic Offence Wing of the Odisha police, Panda allegedly cheated 22 people, belonging to the Dalit community, to acquire their land in the state’s Khurda district.
Jagi Mangat Panda said that her company will seek redressal in the court against the alleged harassment by state authorities. “Though there has been no wrongdoing by us and we are confident that this will ultimately be proved in the courts,” she said.
The Naveen Patnaik led BJD, however, refuted these allegations of a witch-hunt against Panda.
“It’s an open and shut case of fraud in land transaction in which several Dalit people have been taken for a ride. The couple, who are promoters of the company Odisha Infratech Pvt that bought the land in violation of several existing laws such as Scheduled Caste Atrocities Act and Odisha Land Reforms Act, would be summoned for joining the investigation. There is no witch-hunt,” said BJD MP Pinaki Mishra.
“As per the Odisha Land Reforms Act, non-Dalit people cannot buy Dalit land. Only Dalit people can buy land of another Dalit. To bypass this law, Panda used his driver Rabi Sethi, who is a Dalit, to buy this land in Sarua and then transferred it to his company. Though Sethi was only earning Rs 8,000 per month, lakhs of rupees were transferred in these land purchases. Later, Sethi and the 22 land owners complained to the Khurda district collector stating this action as illegal and fraud,” he said.
Jay Panda’s quote awaited