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Vyapam scam: Medical student Namrata Damor’s death still remains a mystery

More than 40 witnesses, accused or whistleblowers linked to the Vyapam scam have died mysteriously.

india Updated: Nov 04, 2017 14:30 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Vyapam scam,Vyapam chargesheet,Namrata Damor
Namrata Damor, an accused in the Vyapam scam, was found dead on railway tracks in 2012.(File Photo)

Namrata Damor, a 19-year-old medical student, is found dead beside train tracks in Ujjain district of Madhya Pradesh on January 7, 2012. Three years later, journalist Akshay Singh visits Damor’s home to investigate her death. While talking to her father, Singh starts coughing and frothing. A few hours later, he is dead.

Media reports tie Damor’s and Singh’s deaths to the Vyapam scam in which an organised racket rigged job and college admission tests conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, commonly known by its Hindi acronym Vyapam.

Earlier this week, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed a chargesheet in the Vyapam scam, naming 490 people. The CBI, which took over the Vyapam probe in 2015, is investigating Damor’s death as a possible case of murder, though the Madhya Pradesh police had ruled it as a case of suicide.

Damor, when she was found dead, had fingernail marks on her face, bruises around the nose and mouth and was missing two teeth. Dr BB Purohit, a forensics specialist who conducted the initial autopsy in January 2012, said in his report that Damor’s death was caused due to “violent asphyxia” and her body showed “signs of homicide”.

Yet, two years later in 2014, the Madhya Pradesh police filed a closure report in the case, saying Damor had committed suicide. The basis of this was a second forensics report by DS Badkur, who was then head of medico-legal department of Mahatma Gandhi Medical College in Bhopal, came up with contradictory findings two months after the original autopsy report. Badkur’s report ruled out homicide, but the doctor later admitted that he hasn’t examined the body, but based his findings on photos of the deceased and the crime scene.

It was journalist Singh’s mysterious death at the Damor residence in Meghnagar, a town in the state’s Jhabua district, on July 5, 2015 that led to the Namrata Damor case being reopened. Singh, a 38-year-old reporter with a television channel, had travelled from Delhi to Meghnagar to investigate a possible link between Damor’s death and the Vyapam scam, which was beginning to grab mainstream media attention by then.

Singh believed that the MP police calling Damor’s death a suicide was linked to alleged attempts to cover up the scam and shield powerful people. He was talking to Damor’s father when he complained of uneasiness and started coughing. A cameraman and a stringer who were accompanying Singh rushed him to a government hospital, then a private hospital, before taking him to Dahod in Gujarat, about 40 km away.

The doctor in Dahod declared him dead on arrival. Doctors said Singh possibly suffered a heart attack, but his family contested this claim, saying he had no serious health problems.

The uproar caused by Singh’s death, and relentless pressure from the Opposition forced Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to agree to a CBI probe. By this time, more than 40 people linked with the scam, including accused, whisteblowers and witnesses, had died under mysterious circumstances, though the police ruled most of these deaths as natural, suicide or accident in almost all cases.

Singh’s death brought Namrata Damor’s into the limelight again. Activists and opposition political parties have alleged that police colluded with those involved in the scam to cloak Damor’s murder as suicide.

After re-enacting the scene and registering the statements of co-passengers, CBI also arrived at a conclusion that Damor was depressed and she committed suicide by jumping off the train she was travelling in. However, CBI has not filed any closure report so far on her death.

More than six years after Damor’s body turned up at the train tracks, her death and its alleged links to the Vyapam, one of the country’s biggest scams till date, remain clouded in mystery.

First Published: Nov 04, 2017 14:17 IST