Devadasan and Jhansi Rani, parents of Melvin Raj, a gunner with the Indian Navy who shot himself in Mumbai on Saturday, have termed the death of their son a murder.
They have also sought the help of Chief Minister Jayalalithaa and the judiciary to intervene and ensure justice for them and also to ensure that no other young sailor dies under such circumstances.
“Melvin was a very courageous person. He had been complaining of harassment by a few of his senior sailors and superior officers of the Indian Navy. He was also contemplating making a request to be discharged. But he would never resort to committing suicide,” a tearful Devadasan and Jhansi Rani told reporters at Chennai Airport on Tuesday.
Melvin Raj, according to the Indian Navy, committed suicide by shooting himself inside INS Talwar on Saturday. His body arrived by an Air India flight from Mumbai around noon, and was handed over to his parents who took it in ambulance to Sembanar Koil near Mayiladuthurai in Nagapattinam district.
“The Navy authorities called us at 10.30 p.m. on Saturday. They initially told us that he was hospitalised after being injured in an accident. When I asked how anyone could be injured in an accident inside a ship, I was told that he sustained a bullet injury, suffered blood loss and that his was pulse was low. They then asked me to come to Mumbai,” Mr. Devadasan said. Both parents tried calling Melvin on his three mobile phones, but all of them were switched off.
The sailor’s parents went to Mumbai. along with Jeyaseelan and Michael Raj, Melvin’s younger brothers. “Despite our fervent pleas, they did not take us to the room where our son had shot himself. They took us round and round in a car from one place to another. Finally, they showed us his body which was at the mortuary of J.J. Hospital,” Mr. Devadasan said.
Mr. Devadasan added, “They showed us a wound below the jaw and another on the head in our son’s body – indicating the movement of the bullet.” The couple said the circumstances clearly showed that it was not a suicide, and even if it were proved to be one, those who were responsible for driving him to the extreme act had to be punished.
They said they went to the Colaba police station, where only their statement was recorded. “We wanted to lodge a complaint and get a case registered and also a FIR. But we were told that the police did not have jurisdiction as the death had had taken place inside Indian Navy area,” Ms. Jhansi Rani said.
According to Melvin’s parents and also his younger brothers, Jeyaseelan and Michael Raj, Melvin had told them about a letter he had written with details about how he was harassed. “This letter was not given to us. If this letter is made public, the truth will come out and those who harassed Melvin will be exposed,” Ms. Jhansi Rani said.
After Melvin had completed his class XII in Kerala, the family moved to Sembanar Koil a few years ago and Melvin pursued a graduate programme in computer applications at a college in Poompuhar. He then joined the Indian Navy as a trainee at the first available opportunity. He completed his training in academies in Vishakapatnam and Kochi. He joined INS Talwar less than six months ago, his parents said.
“He was an active cadet of National Cadet Corps and also a talented athlete. That his why he wanted to join the armed forces,” drove him towards joining the Defence,” his father said. However, his harassment at the hands of his seniors was becoming unbearable over the past few months, and he had even advised one of his friends not to join the Navy, they said.