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The curious case of rape convict Bitti Mohanty, reborn in Kerala

After the Delhi gangrape, a bombastic national TV anchor kept asking this question: where is Bitti Mohanty, the Alwar rape convict who jumped parole and disappeared into thin air seven years ago?

The anchor’s voice was shrill because Bitti’s father BB Mohanty was the DGP of Odisha when the absconding happened. The needle of suspicion was on Mohanty senior and he was even arrested and suspended. However, Bitti continued to abscond while Mohanty got back into service and retired with all benefits. The father said that he had no clue where his son was and probably he was dead.

Bitti Mohanty. Ibnlive

Bitti Mohanty. Ibnlive

National and local media had pursued the case for some time which subsequently disappeared from public memory till the Delhi gangrape shocked the country. Bitti’s picture and case details became part of the national mainstream yet again.

Now, making a mockery of the country’ criminal justice system and the law and order machineries, the rape convict appears in the north Kerala district of Kannur. When captured, he didn’t look like one of those ragged men tired of running away from law, but a smart probationary officer in State Bank of Travancore, the leading public sector bank in the state, with a totally new identity.

At the Bank, he was Raghav Raj from Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh. Apparently he has been a resident of Kannur for several years. Local media reported that he even obtained an MBA degree from a local college in Kannur. Reportedly, he also had developed a network of friends and appeared to be socially familiar with his surroundings. During the last two weeks, he has been staying with a colleague from Bihar.

The Kerala police has taken him into custody after throwing a net around him so that he couldn’t escape. His capture was based on an anonymous letter which the bank received a few days ago. Apparently, he got wind of the suspicion among his colleagues following the letter and was about to leave Kannur when the police closed in.

Journalists in Kannur said that he looked so different from the photos that had appeared in newspapers and TV. He looked older, had a completely different hairdo, had grown a moustache and kept long side-burns. Moreover, the media pictures in circulation were seven years old.

That a criminal-son of a senior police officer had been able to run away from the law and work openly in a public sector sector bank in another state shows the extent of conspiracy and criminality that people with influence in India can pull off. That too when identity of people and their antecedents are of serious concern to both the central and state governments in the context of national security.

Is it so easy to fool a system, that too a State Bank, with a completely fictitious identity?

Aren’t there checks and balances?

For him to get in to the bank, the trail of forgery or change of identity would have run so deep because in every piece of record that he would have mandatorily presented to the Bank, he must have called himself Raghav Raj, son of Rajeev Raj of Puttaparthi. Can he forge a whole set of documents — from his birth certificate, identity and residence proofs, to certificates of academic records — without the help of people of influence?

These will be some of the questions that the police will have to investigate in the coming days. It’s certainly a classic case of how people of influence get away even with cold murder in India and so shocking in the context of criminal justice and national security.

And why did he choose Kannur in Kerala of all the places? Did he also receive help from some influential people in the bank to get in? Did he really qualify the recruitment tests for probationary officers, which incidentally are not easy.

Despite the shocking sloppiness of Rajastan police and the criminal conspiracy of some people of influence, there is indeed a silver lining - yet again, it is citizen vigilance and media messages that worked when everything failed. His photos and case history, carried by national TV channels, were making rounds on youtube and the social media in the wake of the Delhi gangrape. The person who tipped the bank off such a possibility reportedly got suspicious, despite all the changes in appearance, after seeing these
images.