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Squabble after cop tragedy
- Police contest doctors, cite injuries in autopsy report


New Delhi, Dec. 26: A controversy has erupted over the circumstances in which a Delhi police constable collapsed and later died after chasing protesters near India Gate on Sunday with an autopsy report contradicting accounts by doctors and eyewitnesses.

Sections of the post-mortem report released by Delhi police today said constable Subhash Tomar, 47, had died after a heart attack possibly precipitated by injuries that resulted from blunt force trauma he suffered during clashes with protesters.

This version contradicts what doctors at the government-run Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where Tomar was taken for treatment have said about his injuries. “There were no major external injury marks, except for some cuts and bruises... in all our records, there are no severe internal injuries recorded, but the post-mortem will tell everything,” RML medical superintendent T.S. Sidhu had said.

Sidhu said Tomar was brought to the hospital in a state of total collapse. “He was in serious shock and we revived him,” he said. Sidhu has been asked to appear before Delhi police with the medical records of Tomar.

Amid the flurry of charges and counter-charges, finance minister P. Chidambaram cautioned against jumping to conclusions and reminded that a life had been lost. “We have lost a government servant who was performing duty. We are sad that a life is lost in trying to maintain law and order in Delhi. My appeal to everyone is that a person died and a criminal case has been registered and everybody should observe restraint before making any comment,” Chidambaram, who was briefing journalists after a cabinet meeting, said in response to a question.

Three young women who had tried to help the fallen constable, as reported in The Telegraph on Monday, said they had not seen external injuries on him. The nature of injuries mentioned in the post-mortem report could not have been noticed by the untrained eye.

According to Delhi police, the post-mortem report said Tomar’s third, fourth and fifth ribs on his left side had fractures and there was “mid-calibacular bleeding” at several places.

Police sources have said the injuries are consistent with those caused by heavy blows from a blunt object.

“He had a lot of injuries and his ribs had fractures. These multiple injuries aggravated his condition and led to cardiac arrest,” said K.C. Dwivedi, additional commissioner of police.

A medical board set up by the hospital for the autopsy said the constable’s death was caused by a “myocardial infarction (heart attack) and its complications that could be precipitated by multiple anti-mortem (before death) injuries to the neck and chest produced by blunt force trauma.”

A senior trauma specialist who was not associated with Tomar’s treatment said it was possible that the blunt force trauma that the constable had endured could well have triggered a physiological stress response that led to a heart attack and his collapse.

“For any heart attack to occur, the individual has to be exposed to some risk factor,” said Amit Gupta, a trauma specialist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. “Blunt force trauma could be such a precipitating factor.”

Tomar was among a group of policemen chasing protesters when he collapsed. Gupta said a trained and fit policeman could continue to run despite three rib fractures and bleeding.

But Sidhu’s comments would imply doctors at RML hospital who received Tomar were, like the civilians without medical training who tried to help him at India Gate, unable to spot his internal injuries.

Nishi Verma and Deep Shikha Singh, two young women who had tried to help the fallen constable, said today that they had not seen any injuries on him.

Another civilian named Paolin said she saw him falling down while running. “We removed his jacket and shoes. I asked whether he can hear me and then I asked him to breathe,” she said. “If we had not been there, he would have been dead on the spot.”

Yogendra, a journalism student, said Tomar was not beaten up by protesters and he fell on his own. “I, along with some policemen, tried to revive him but he collapsed. It was then that he was rushed to hospital in a PCR van. He was not beaten up by any protester and fell down on his own,” he said.

As soon as the post-mortem report reached police headquarters on Wednesday afternoon, senior officials called a media conference and read out part of the report.

The bereaved family of the constable said Tomar did not have a history of heart problems. “He was killed by some protesters who beat him up and even trampled on him after he collapsed. He did not suffer from any heart-related problems,” said Deepak, his son.

The police have slapped murder charges against eight persons, including a member of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), who were present at India Gate during the protest.

AAP spokesperson Manish Sisodia alleged police was “politicising” Tomar’s death to cover their mistakes and demanded that commissioner Neeraj Kumar be sacked.

“Delhi police have politicised the death to cover their own mistakes and are hatching a controversy to justify the crackdown on peaceful protesters. The police commissioner should be sacked,” he said.