The family of Bhopal-based Nitin Mahindra, one of the main accused in the multi-crore Vyapam scam, now spends every day in fear.
As the bodies of people linked to the racket pile up, his mother Sarla prays to the gods for the safety of her son, currently lodged in jail.
Police say the former chief systems analyst with the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board was instrumental in the widespread impersonation racket that rigged exams and affected at least 2.5 million students in the last few years.
But Mahindra’s house in Bhopal’s upmarket Chuna Bhatti area is nowadays ringed with apprehension. It took HT almost 15 minutes to convince Sarla that the team was one of journalists, not troublemakers.
“For the past two days, we have been living in extreme fear. No one has any answer about these untimely deaths. We are scared about the security of family members and children but more than this I am much worried about security of my son Nitin who is in jail,” said Sarla. “These deaths have frightened us so much we are not allowing children to go out. We have lost our appetites and spend sleepless nights watching the news to find out whether any mysterious death has been solved.”
She isn’t the only one.
A spate of recent deaths of people linked to the scam has left witnesses and accused spooked and worried about their safety with several whistleblowers saying they fear for their lives. Many allege the deaths are a systematic attempt to scuttle the investigation that has already singed top bureaucrats and politicians.
Bhavesh Nayak, a 2011 batch MBBS student who was disqualified last year for allegedly using unfair means, now spends his days in despair.
Though he has joined several protests in Bhopal and got a reprieve from the courts, he has sworn to not attend any more demonstrations.
“After the death of journalist Akshay Singh in my home district, I am a bit afraid. If such powerful persons are not safe, anything can happen to students like me. I will not participate in protests anymore. I am happy doing agricultural activities in my village,” said Nayak.
The story is repeated across the city at 65-year-old Krishna Sharma’s residence. The mother of high-profile mining baron Sudhir Sharma — a key accused in the scandal — spends most of her waking hours in front of the television, worried about the security of her son, in jail for almost a year now.
She has been doing this for past three to four days, worried about security of her elder son, Sudhir Sharma, an accused in the scam and in jail for the past one year.
“I can’t sleep. There is no guarantee of security of my son in the jail. The people who implicated him in the scam may target my son. I only trust the God,” she told HT with tears rolling down her cheeks.