Teacher set afire for not withdrawing plaint

Bhubaneswar, Oct 29 (IANS) A woman teacher in Odisha sustained critical injuries when an unidentified assailant set her ablaze for allegedly refusing to withdraw a sexual assault complaint she had filed against an official earlier this year, police said Tuesday.

The incident occurred Sunday night at a residential government school at Tikiri of Rayagada district, about 420 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, when she was watching television along with some children, a police official told IANS.

The teacher was staying in the school. The assailant allegedly entered the school room, threatened the woman to withdraw the complaint and poured kerosene on her before lighting the match, he said.

Itishree Pradhan, 28, sustained more than 90 percent burns. She was rushed to a hospital in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh where her condition was stated to be critical, he added.

The official said Pradhan had filed a molestation complaint with the police against school inspector Netrananda Dandsena in July. Dandsena is absconding since then.

Early this month, a committee against sexual harassment at work place found Dandsena guilty and recommended action against him.

"The district administration suspended the school inspector, a district inspector of school and a police officer investigating the molestation case," the official said.

Police have formed a special team to nab Dandsena and the man who set her afire, he added.

Describing the incident as barbaric and inhuman, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Tuesday said strong action would be taken against the culprits. Patnaik also announced that the state government would bear the victim's treatment expenses.

The opposition parties, however, criticised the government and demanded Patnaik's resignation, citing the latest incident as an example of lawlessness.

"Despite having prior information, it is a matter of shame the police did not arrest the school inspector. The chief minister has no moral right to continue in power," senior Congress leader Narasimha Mishra told reporters here.

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