Vijay Singh Patel was only 35 when he was found dead in a hotel in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker township in April this year, barely 27 km away from Charama where he had gone on vacation to be with his working wife.
Namrata Damor was younger, barely into her twenties, when her mutilated body was recovered from a railway track in Ujjain, in 2012. Police closed the death of the MBBS student after medico-legal experts established it as suicide.
Patel and Damor’s deaths are separated by a couple of years – and occurred hundreds of miles apart – but both were linked to the now infamous Madhya Pradesh professional examination board (PEB) scam, a multi-layered examination racket allegedly involving touts, students, job aspirants, government officials and political leaders.
And there are many in the state, including political parties and family-members of the two, who believe that their deaths are part of a bigger conspiracy to silence key witnesses in the scam, now being probed by a special task force (STF) under the supervision of a court-appointed special investigation team.
At least 38 people linked to the scam have died over the past few years in different circumstances, several of them at a very young age. Many have been killed in road accidents and some died to due to mysterious ailments.
The opposition Congress says that police probed these cases casually without looking into the larger picture of their links to the scam.
Amidst a growing clamour for a CBI probe into what are described as “suspicious deaths”, the SIT said the STF will probe 25 of these cases.
The issue of these “mysterious deaths” has taken centrestage once again after the death of 29-year-old Narendra Singh Tomar, a veterinary doctor, inside jail.
Family-members of Tomar, arrested in connection with fraud in the medical entrance test, have said that he was murdered. “My brother was murdered inside the jail. To show his death as natural, a jail guard took him to hospital and got him declared dead,” said Tomar’s brother Vikram Singh, who lives in Morena.
“He never had any heart ailment. I met him a few days ago and he was absolutely fine,” Singh added. However, the post-mortem report is still awaited.
Family-members of Vijay Singh Patel and Namrata Damor too allege that their deaths reeked of foul play given the circumstances of the recovery of the bodies.
Damor, who hailed from Jhabua, was allegedly linked to Jagdish Sagar, a kingpin in the PEB scam, who is in jail. The initial autopsy report had suggested that she might have been smothered to death. However, medico-legal experts in Bhopal later confirmed it a case of suicide.
Damor’s family-members pointed out that if she had to commit suicide, why would she would take the trouble to availing a train reservation ticket and then travel all the way from Indore to Ujjain to kill herself.
The death of Gyan Singh, also a medical student, was also never properly explained. Police said Singh, just 23 years of age then, died due to excessive consumption of liquor, a claim family-members have debunked.
The death of Amit Sagar, a veterinary student and a suspect in the scam, too have remained a mystery for the family.
Sagar, 27, went out for a morning walk near his home in Sheopur on February 15 this year but never returned. Later, his body was his body was found floating in a canal.
Family-members of Lalit Kumar Golaria and Ramendra Singh Bhadoria, both 28 and medical students, too allege that they were silenced by gangs of scamsters.
While Golaria’s body was found under a bridge in Morena, Bhadoria allegedly committed suicide in his home in Gwalior. Both had allegedly cracked the medical entrance test with the help of touts.
Police attributed Bhadoria’s death to a failed love affair though sources said that he was under pressure from scamsters.
STF officials refuse to comment on the deaths while the SIT has said that it could take up more cases apart from the 25 if the high court issues a directive.