Was it suicide or murder? It’s a question everybody was asking on Wednesday as controversy raged over 22-year-old medical student Namrata Damor’s suspicious death three years ago.
It brought the focus back on 10 Vyapam-related deaths that were dubbed suicide even though none of them left a suicide note, revealing another intriguing gap in the investigations already facing accusations of wrong arrests and tampered post-mortem reports. Besides, there are allegations that in the cases where foul play was alleged police termed the deaths as suicide without conducting an autopsy.
An initial autopsy report suggested the Jhabua student could have been a case of murder caused by “violent asphyxia”.
Watch:The A to Z of the Vyapam scam
The mutilated body of Damor — allegedly linked to a kingpin of the Vyapam scandal — was found near railway tracks in Ujjain where she was travelling in a train.
But a second autopsy ordered by police diagnosed the death as suicide. The doctor who certified the suicide did so by looking at photographs of the earlier autopsy.
Her father disagreed with the conclusions. “If she were going to commit suicide, why would she get a train berth reserved,” asked Mehtab Singh.
Damor’s death is not the only so-called suicide linked to the multi-crore recruitment scandal.
Read: Vyapam scam victims: Bright students now branded as cheats
HT spoke to families of the 10 people and found out that not only were suicide notes missing but, in some cases, the police had closed the deaths as suicides without even conducting an autopsy or informing the special task force (STF) investigating the exam-rigging fraud. In most cases, families were not shown a copy of the post-mortem report.
The charred body of Dr DK Sakale, former dean of Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College in Jabalpur and chairman of a college committee formed to identify students suspected to have used unfair means to pass the pre-medical test, was recovered from his house on July 4, 2014.
Home minister Babulal Gaur initially agreed to a CBI probe after the STF looked the other way but the agency didn’t accept the job and Dr Sakale’s death remains uninvestigated.
“He was a forensic expert… He knew about methods far less painful and he would have employed them if he wished to commit suicide rather than burning himself,” said Dr AK Jain, a colleague.
Recently, the president of the Indian Medical Association’s Jabalpur chapter, Dr Sudhir Tiwari, gave a new twist to the death when he claimed Dr Sakale was killed by a laser gun.
Other families that have lost a son or daughter say they do not want further investigation just to avoid what they say is harassment by police.
Mahavir Sharma, brother of 22-year-old Purshottam Sharma who allegedly hung himself in Jhansi in April 2013, maintains his brother had injury marks on his head and blood dripping out of his ear. He suspects Purshottam was killed but does not want an investigation to avoid the STF.
So far, no serious inquiry has been carried out into any of the 10 suicides.
“The manner in which deaths of PEB accused and others related to the scam have taken place, I am sure they have been killed but that angle was never explored by the police,” said Ashish Chaturvedi, a Gwalior-based whistleblower in the massive fraud. “During the investigation, they never made any difference between a suspicious death of a PEB scam accused and other people, which they should have.”
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