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Panel to probe AIDS ‘torture’

Hyderabad, July 12: The National Commission for Women proposes to independently probe allegations that an AIDS-afflicted woman was stoned in Kuppam last month, days before her death.

The commission said a state government inquiry report that Pavanamma died on July 3 because her disease had reached a critical stage was “not credible”.

Poornima Advani, chairperson of the panel, is rushing to Kuppam — chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu’s constituency — for an on-the-spot assessment.

Local language newspapers have alleged that Pavanamma, a 32-year-old housewife, was chased by neighbours at B.C. Colony in Munuswamypuram village while heading to a shop and pelted with stones on June 29. She died at home four days later.

The Andhra Pradesh government ordered an inquiry after an NGO, Australian AIDS Fund Inc, brought the death to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s notice.

The government probe — the first such into an AIDS patient’s death in the state — was conducted by revenue divisional officer Sharat along with medical officers at Kuppam. It ascribed the death to AIDS.

Advani said even the report of Minnie Mathew, secretary of the state women and child welfare department, had given the administration a clean chit.

She rejected probes conducted by the government and the police, saying culprits were being shielded and added that the incident was a national shame. “I want to bring out the truth even if big names are involved in an attempt to cover up and avoid national attention.”

Advani is currently participating in a seminar at Hyderabad, Disturbing developments related to Indian women marrying NRIs and foreigners. She said she suspected the government was trying to “hush up” the issue and wanted to conduct an independent probe.

“I have invited some local correspondents to meet me at Kuppam where I will be staying till 2.30 pm tomorrow,” Advani said. She added that she would make public her findings at the earliest.

Advani said NGO Women’s Initiative chief Meera had told her she feared the worst.

Other reports from Kuppam said Pavanamma was suffering from heavy diarrhoea and that neighbours had complained that the stench from her house had kept them away from their homes. Their complaints allegedly led her relatives to resort to extreme measures. According to unconfirmed reports, the backward class woman, who had begun to look like a skeleton, was given magnesium sulphate injections — used to kill stray dogs.

A resident of the colony, who did not wish to be named, said Pavanamma was “also beaten with a wooden stool” to bring about a quick death.

An NGO activist, Shivraj, who also lives in the colony, said over telephone that he had often heard cries from Pavanamma’s house, where she lived with her mother and brother. He said residents and witnesses were scared to speak to the media after inquiries had given the administration a clean chit.

Elsewhere, Advani said the National Human Rights Corporation report on the Best Bakery killings in Vadodara would be placed before the joint board of the corporation, comprising chairpersons of several commissions.

The chairperson slammed the poor state of tribal girls’ hostels in Andhra after visiting one such hostel in Araku valley in Visakhapatnam. Advani said the condition of the hostel was very bad. “They had a male superintendent, no electricity, no telephone and were 5 km away from any habitation.”

The chairperson urged the government to order a probe into hostel conditions immediately.

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