After being on the run for more than two decades, the prime accused in the Odisha gangrape case that brought down the JB Patnaik government in 1999, was arrested from Maharashtra on Monday. Two other accused had been arrested 17 days after the incident that took place on January 9, 1999, and shook the state to the core.

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Bibekananda Biswal alias Biban, who managed to evade arrest for 22 years, was arrested by the Odisha police from Amby Valley in Lonavala as part of an operation called 'Silent Viper'. He was working as a plumber and had managed to get an Aadhaar card and other documents. Those arrested soon after the incident were Pradip Sahu and Direndra Mohanty.

“We launched Operation Silent Viper to track and arrest the accused. Our teams got active in Maharashtra after we received a tip-off about his whereabouts. He was working at Idyllic Resorts under a false identity of Jalandhar Swain,”  Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Police Commissioner Sudhanshu Sarangi told the Indian Express.

Reacting to the arrest, the victim told the newspaper, “All these years, I felt dead inside. Every day was a struggle, knowing that my perpetrator was free. Justice was denied all these years. I want him (Biban) to be sentenced to death.”

The victim, then 29, had in her complaint said that she was travelling in a car from Cuttack to Bhubaneswar when the vehicle was made to stop and she was allegedly raped by three men. The estranged wife of an IFS officer had accused the chief minister and former advocate general Indrajit Ray of having a hand in the incident.

She linked the incident to a complaint she had filed two years before the incident, on July 12, 1997, against Ray. She accused Ray of attempt to rape and CM Patnaik of shielding him. Ray was forced to resign as A-G in 1998 after the CBI filed a chargesheet against him. In February 2000, Ray was sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment in the case.

The gangrape led to a huge outcry against chief minister Patnaik as the victim alleged that the incident was a premeditated act to scare her into withdrawing the charges against Ray. With the Opposition baying for his blood and huge public outcry, the CM was forced to resign in February 1999.

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The other two accused -- Pradip Sahu and Direndra Mohanty-- were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2002. Sahu died in February last