NEW DELHI: The Army has ordered an inquiry into the mysterious death of a jawan who was on Thursday found hanging in an unused Army barrack in Deolali and had recently featured in a media video exposing the abuse of the Indian Army’s colonial 'buddy' system.
Lance Naik Roy Mathew, (33), who hailed from Ezhukon in Kollam district of Kerala, was found hanging from the ceiling of a room in an abandoned barrack at the artillary centre in Deolali cantonment on Thursday, senior police officer Shrikant Dhivre told New Indian Express.
Soldiers in the camp searched the area after a foul smell emanated from the building, and found Roy's partially decomposed body, which appeared to be four days old, said officer Shrikant Dhivre.
Roy Mathew , who had joined the Army 13 years ago as a gunner was posted to Deolali about two years back. He had gone missing since February 25, when the video where he had voiced ills of the "Sahayak" or orderly system being followed in the army had gone viral.
The video, in which Roy Mathew covered his face, narrating the woes of soldiers which was shot by a news website as part of a sting operation, showed soldiers attached to senior officers for "buddy duties" walking their dogs or taking their children to school. The Army has begun an inquiry into the sting.
A case of "accidental death" has been registered as of now and police are yet to ascertain whether it was suicide or murder. A diary and a letter were recovered from the body and it appears that the extreme step was triggered by guilt, said officer Shrikant Dhivre.
Army officials, however, have denied reports that Roy Mathew was questioned and put under pressure, and went ahead with a statement calling it a suicide case. However, sources said Roy Mathew had told his kin that he feared he would lose his job and would have to face consequences for the act.
“Preliminary investigations have now revealed that the suicide may be a result of a series of events which were triggered by media personnel managing to videograph the deceased by asking leading questions on his duties as a buddy without his knowledge,” said the statement.
“It is very likely that the guilt factor of letting down his superiors or conveying false impressions to an unknown individual led him to take the extreme step,” the Army statement
Army sources claimed that on February 25, Mathew made his last phone call to his wife and then sent a ‘sorry’ message to his Colonel-rank officer, with whom he was attached at the Centre.
“The identities of the army personnel involved in the clipping was hidden, and they were not known to the Army. Hence, there is no question of any inquiry that could have been ordered against the deceased,” added the statement.
A series of videos showing jawans working in poor conditions went viral on social media including the video of another jawan - Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh - describing menial jobs as a sahayak going viral in January. Lance Naik Singh alleged that he was forced to wash clothes, polish boots and walk dogs for his seniors. He flagged his complaint to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others in a letter.