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A junior woman doctor undergoing post-graduation at the Assam Medical College and Hospital (AMCH) in Dibrugarh was murdered at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the oldest healthcare institute in the northeast on Friday, possibly after a failed rape attempt.
Police have arrested the ward boy of the ICU with scratches on his face, raising suspicion that he could have attempted to outrage the modesty of 24-year-old Sarita Tashniwal before driving a surgical knife through her neck.
The incident brought back memories of the tragic Aruna Shaunbagh case of 1973 when the junior nurse was sexually assaulted by a ward boy at a Mumbai hospital. The victim has been in a vegetative state since the incident when the rapist tried to kill her by wrapping an iron chain around her neck.
The marriage of Sarita – pursuing her MD course in obstetrics and gynaecology – was fixed for July 7 with a fellow-doctor Roshan Agarwal, who is also undergoing his PG course at the AMCH.
Sarita hailed from neighbouring Sivasagar district. Dibrugarh is 470 km east of capital Guwahati.
Sarita's mother is in Rajasthan – the ancestral state of the family – for marriage shopping, a family source in Sivasagar said.
Dibrugarh superintendent of police Rana Bhuyan said that the accused Tiru Mech confessed to killing Sarita after she allegedly misbehaved with him.
"He also claimed to have been disturbed for some family reasons but we are looking at all angles," Bhuyan added.
Sarita's body was discovered by nurses in a pool of blood at the ICU bed, which is adjacent to the doctors' rest room, at around 8 am in the morning.
Police said Sarita had gone for rest at the doctors' room at around 5am. She was on duty since 10 pm last night.
After interrogating four people, including Sarita's colleagues, police arrested the ward boy.
A police official part of the investigating team said there are "fresh injury marks" on the face of Mech.
"It could be that before stabbing her, Tiru tried to outrage Sarita's modesty and she resisted resulting in his injuries," the official added.
Police are also investigating whether there were any other people involved in the murder.
Police have also collected footage of CCTV cameras installed in the medical college.
Meanwhile, junior doctors at the Assam Medical College and Hospital launched an indefinite ceasework, demanding proper security arrangement in the institute. The junior doctors demonstrated in front of the institute shouting slogans demanding justice to the victim.
The agitating doctors also submitted a memorandum to the AMCH management and Dibrugarh district administration.
Expressing sorrow over the incident, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi asked police to "quickly probe" the cold-blooded murder and also ordered enhanced security in and around the AMCH premises.
Health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma was likely to visit AMCH to take stock of the situation.
The AMCH is one of the oldest medical institutes in eastern India, set up by British philanthropist Sir John Berry White, a retired brigadier of the British Army.
It was earlier known as the Berry White Medical School.