The state of Maharashtra has been rocked with the suicide of its ‘Lady Singham’, Range Forest Officer Dipali Chavan-Mohite who after being repeatedly sexually harassed by a senior forest officer named Vinod Shivkumar, who in turn, threatened to frame her under the SC/ST Act, took the extreme step.
28-year-old female Range Forest Officer posted in the Melghat Tiger Reserve (MRT) in Amravati, Maharashtra, Dipali Chavan-Mohite shot herself to death at her official quarters. A purported suicide note that she left behind revealed that she allegedly faced sexual harassment and torture at the hands of an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer, Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Vinod Shivkumar.
The allegations levelled by Dipali in the purported suicide note are indeed serious with her family earlier on Friday, refusing to accept her body for conducting the last rites till the Amravati Police nabbed the accused, Vinod Shivkumar named in her suicide note.
Dipali, in her four-page suicide note, appealed to the authorities to act against Shivkumar so that nobody else should suffer her ordeal. Reportedly, IFS Shivkumar has been nabbed at the Nagpur railway station while he was waiting to onboard a train that would have taken him to Bengaluru.
According to Mumbai Mirror, Dipali alleged that for the past few months, the IFS officer used his position, harassed her sexually and inflicted mental trauma on her continuously. The letter further states that despite repeatedly bringing Shivkumar’s behaviour to the notice of his senior, MTR Field Director, M.S. Reddy (IFS), he chose to reportedly ignore Dipali’s pleas and ostensibly sided with the accused DCF.
Alarmingly, Dipali had also highlighted Shivkumar’s alcoholism, using abusive or foul language at her in public and private, making advances and dropping hints to get physical, but to little avail.
An example of Shivkumar’s atrocity on Dipali can be seen from the incident in February 2020, when a pregnant Dipali was made to accompany Shivkumar on a gruelling three-day forest patrol, walking or driving hundreds of kilometres ignoring her maternal condition. Unfortunately, after returning from the assignment, she suffered a miscarriage and free-fell into a deep depression before her mother nursed Dipali back to normalcy.
The incident not only speaks of the horrors that the lady officer faced but also how the SC / ST Act is being misused by certain senior officers to devastate families like that of Dipali. Maharashtra has lost its braveheart officer, who used to be dreaded by local mafias and steps must be taken to nab the accused and ensure such an incident doesn’t take place again.