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Indian Forestry Officer Accused of Sexual Assault in U.S.

  • United States

    Surendra Prasad Mohapatra, a senior Indian Forest Service officer visiting the U.S. to attend a training course, has been arrested on suspicion of a sexual assault in Matamoras, Pa.

    Mohapatra, regional chief conservator of forests in Sambalpur, Orissa, is a member of a delegation of more than 30 Indian officials visiting the U.S. for a mid-career training program at Syracuse University in New York.

    According to PTI, the incident in question occurred July 24 in the evening when Mohapatra asked for assistance with his Internet connection in his hotel room.

    A woman came to his room, was unable to fix the problem and left. An individual named Bhargava, who is course coordinator for the U.S. trip, told PTI that the local police, acting on a complaint by the woman, came to the room about two hours later and detained Mohapatra.

    A preliminary hearing has been set for Aug. 1. Bail has been set at $35,000, according to news reports.

    The Times of India reported in India that Mohapatra’s wife, Seema, and some colleagues told the newspaper that Mohapatra has informed them that he got irritated when the woman failed to solve the Internet connectivity problem.

    “My husband told me that the woman could not fix the Net problem, for which he told her something in an irritated manner,” she told the Times July 26 reported that Mohapatra, an Indian Foreign Service graduate of the class of 1985, remains in jail and does not have diplomatic immunity. A representative from the Indian consulate in New York met with him and offered to arrange legal counsel.

    PTI reported that the Orissa state government has been in touch with the Indian Embassy in Washington, D.C. on the incident, but has been unable to contact Mohapatra.

    Environment Minister Jayanti Natrajan has sought a detailed report on the case, sources said in New Delhi, and Orissa Forest and Environment Minister Debi Prasad Mishra described the incident as “unfortunate" to reporters in Bhubaneswar.

    Charges of sexual assault and false imprisonment have been filed against Mohapatra, an official at the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department in Matamoras told PTI, adding that Mohapatra has not yet had a chance to enter a plea.

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