JNU autopsy caught in distrust

A distraught father, combative human rights activists and a bewildered police force spent the day outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) mortuary, where the body of Muthukrishnan J. is awaiting post-mortem.

By Pheroze L. Vincent
  • Published 15.03.17
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D Raja talks to Muthukrishnan’s father outside the mortuary on Tuesday.

New Delhi, March 14: A distraught father, combative human rights activists and a bewildered police force spent the day outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) mortuary, where the body of Muthukrishnan J. is awaiting post-mortem.

Muthukrishnan, known to friends as Krish, was found hanging in a friend's house opposite Jawaharlal Nehru University, where he had registered for an integrated MPhil-PhD in modern history.

Krish, who did his postgraduate course in Hyderabad University, was a "close friend" of Vemula Rohith Chakravarthy, the scholar whose suicide after a run-in with the ABVP had triggered a furore across the country last year.

Both were deeply interested in literature - Rohith in science fiction and Krish in the works of modern Tamil authors.

Like Rohith's mother Radhika, Krish's father Jeevanantham M., a private security guard in Tamil Nadu's Salem, is proud of educating all his children well. His eldest daughter has an MPhil and is a schoolteacher. Krish was his second child. Krish's two younger sisters are graduates, one of them a nurse.

Today, Jeevanantham sat motionless outside the mortuary, his eyes bloodshot.

Muthukrishnan

"He called us on Sunday and spoke to his mother and sisters. He was going to come home next week. My son is not one to kill himself. He struggled and came this far. He was going to become a government officer or a great scholar. I only want a fair probe into how my son who should be studying is lying with dead bodies inside that room," he told this reporter this morning.

Police officers negotiated with activists of JNU's Birsa Ambedkar Phule Students Association (Bapsa), with which Krish was associated, to get Jeevanantham's consent to begin the post-mortem. The police had announced earlier that a medical board of senior forensic experts would conduct the post-mortem in front of a video camera. The students were asked to submit the names of doctors whom the police and AIIMS could bring on board.

By noon, several leaders of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights reached the spot.

The demands were then raised: an FIR under the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to be probed by the CBI, an inquiry into caste discrimination in JNU, compensation for the family and transportation of the body to Salem. Both Delhi police and the Tamil Nadu government have offered to fly the body to the southern state.

Mukul Wasnik of the Congress, CPI's D. Raja, DMK's T.K.S. Elangovan and AIADMK MPs S. Muthukaruppan, S.R. Vijayakumar and K. Kamaraj visited the spot and tried to mediate. However, the impasse continued until the evening.

Muthukaruppan said: "I have told them the police will do their job. Anyone guilty will get punished. The post-mortem will be done in the morning. "

Nathan added: "We don't want a just post-mortem which is meaningless. We want a case against the professors for discrimination. Why haven't the police filed an FIR yet? We will see to it that we get doctors from Chennai for the post-mortem."

By evening, another demand - jobs for two of his sisters - was added as a condition for consenting to the post-mortem.

Additional DCP Manoj C., who hails from Salem, handled the negotiations. "How can an FIR be filed without even conducting the post-mortem? Some students and activists said they want to file an FIR. I said 'sure, we will accept any complaint and investigate it'. As per rules, private doctors from some other state cannot do the post-mortem," the officer said.

Jeevanantham filed a complaint drafted by activists in the evening.

It says: "The position of the body as seen from the picture raises serious doubts about the alleged claim of my son committing suicide. In the picture (from the crime scene), the tongue was not protruding and the eyelids were not drooping, which is normally seen in such cases.... I was told by my son's friends that he was facing constant caste-based harassment and discrimination in his academic pursuits from his Centre (for Historical Studies) and the JNU administration."

Bapsa has alleged that Krish "felt humiliated for not being able to find a supervisor like others without any trouble". The supervisor he wanted - Neeladri Bhattacharya - retires this year. Bapsa activist Praveen T. said the father would give his consent for the post-mortem if an FIR is filed by tomorrow morning.