Mumbai: A 33-year-old soldier who was part of a recent expose by a website on the abuse of the British-era “sahayak” or orderly system in the army was found hanging in abandoned barracks on Thursday. Roy Mathew was missing from the artillery centre in the cantonment in Deolali in Maharashtra since last Saturday, after the video of the sting went viral. His body was found in a decomposed state.
The Defence Ministry called the death a suicide and said initial investigations revealed it “may be a result of the 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”.
It was “very likely”, said the ministry, that the “guilt factor of letting down his superiors or conveying false impression” pushed him over the edge.
The soldier’s diary appears to indicate this, according to the police. “We have a recovered a diary and a letter…he was feeling bad about taking names of seniors and has said sorry to some of them,” said Srikant Dhivare, a senior police officer.
The police have, however, registered a case of “accidental death” for now, asserting that only forensic tests can confirm how he died.
The army denies that Roy Mathew was questioned and under pressure after the video, which showed soldiers attached to senior officers for sahayak or “buddy duties” walking their dogs or taking their children to school. It said the soldier’s face was masked, so he could not be identified.
But sources say that he did send a one-word SMS to an officer saying “sorry” last Saturday.
The soldier’s brother Jijo Jose revealed that he had called his family in Kerala last Friday, a day before he went AWOL. “After that, his phone was switched off. He didn’t indicate he was tense. We tried calling him…The suicide is very shocking,” he said.
The video has been removed from the website.
It was reportedly the soldier who contacted the site after the video of another jawan, Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh, became viral in January. Lance Naik Singh had alleged that he was forced to wash clothes, polish boots and walk dogs for his seniors.