A day after the body of a jawan was found dead near his camp in Nashik, an army spokesperson on Friday said a “sting operation” conducted by mediapersons may have spurred him to commit suicide.
The body of Roy Mathew, a soldier hailing from Kerala, was found a few days after he accused senior officers of harassment in an interview with a Marathi channel. The programme was aired on Monday.
In a press release issued on Friday, the spokesperson said preliminary investigations revealed that the suicide might have been the result of a series of events triggered by media personnel videographing the deceased while asking him “leading questions” about his duties as an army sahayak (buddy).
“It is very likely that the guilt from letting his superiors down, or conveying a false impression to an unknown individual, led (him) to take the extreme step,” the spokesperson said. He said there was no question of probing the allegations made in the video because no names were revealed.
Although the army believes it to be a case of suicide, family members of 33-year-old Mathew said they suspect foul play. They have demanded an investigation into the circumstances leading to his death.
The death comes amid of a spate of allegations of poor working conditions and harassment faced by jawans in the armed forces.
Roy went missing on Monday, a day after calling up his wife – Fini Mathew – at Kollam to say that he had made a “big mistake”, an apparent reference to the interview that showed him accusing senior officers of harassment at the Nashik camp.
Roy reportedly told Fini that his senior officials came to know about the interview even though the channel promised to keep his identity a secret. She said the jawan remained incommunicado for the last three days, until the family received a call from his superiors.
“The commanding officer informed us that a body similar to that of Roy has been found, and it has been shifted to a hospital for a post-mortem examination. Other than that, we didn’t receive any other information,” Roy’s brother, John Mathew, said. Attempts to get any information from the Nashik district administration went in vain.
According to Roy’s family, he often complained to his wife about the alleged “slavery” prevalent in the unit. He alleged that junior personnel were often forced to do domestic chores at their officers’ residences.
The jawan told Fini that though the army had vowed to do away with the “sahayak” post last year, the system is still in force. He said that while some of his colleagues seemed happy to perform such tasks, including gardening and rearing dogs, he did not feel inclined to do the same.
Fini has sought chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s intervention in the matter. Roy had visited his Kollam home on December 3, and returned to Nashik 20 days later.
The jawan, who joined the army 13 years ago, had been working as a gunner with the 214 Rocket Regiment in Nashik for the last one year.