Melvin Raj (23) from Nagapattinam had joined the Indian Navy two-and-a-half years ago with the dream of serving his nation. Two days ago, his parents received a call from the Navy saying that their son was no more. They claim that Melvin committed suicide due to harassment by his seniors. Now, they have alleged that the authorities refused to book tickets for the family members slated to take Melvin’s body back to the native village.
“After a lot of pressure, they booked only two tickets. The family, consisting of Melvin’s parents and two brothers had come down soon after hearing the news. But now, the Navy officers have asked us to borrow money from friends and relatives to arrange for the remaining tickets. Melvin was the only earning member of the family. The Navy should not leave the family in the lurch like this,” Selvam Ramakrishnan, the deceased sailor’s cousin, told The Hindu on Monday.
Despite repeated attempts, the Navy did not respond to the allegations made by the family members. An official said the Naval authorities have been involved in the documentation work of the case. “The Navy will be able to respond to the queries only after the Board of Inquiry is complete,” Narendrakumar Vispute, Public Relations Officer (Defence), told The Hindu.
Meanwhile, the Navy handed over to the family the letter written by Melvinto the seniors complaining about the harassment he faced at work. The family has alleged that the 23-year-old could not bear the harassment meted out to him and thus ended his life by shooting himself on-board INS Talwar. The letter, written on January 4, has named an official who ill-treated him.
The police investigating the case said that they were yet to receive the post-mortem report. They refused to comment on the exact nature of the gunshot. The Navy, in its brief statement, said Melvin was found with a gunshot wound and was taken to INS Ashwini where he was declared dead on arrival. “A Board of Inquiry has been ordered. Whether it is suicide or accidental death, will be known only after the completion of the investigation,” Mr. Vispute said.
Authorities said the internal inquiry will be over in a few days. Meanwhile, it is the Colaba police who are investigating the case.
On Monday, the police officials recorded the statements of some Naval officials and the parents of the deceased. They have registered a case of accidental death in the matter.
Asked if the police would change it into a suicide case, Zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police Ravindra Shisve told The Hindu that the allegations of the family members would have to be corroborated with the statements given by his colleagues and friends.
“A detailed inquiry is going on. We will take on record whatever the parents say. But we are in the process of corroborating it with other things. We will also have to consider if he was reprimanded during the discharge of his official duties,” he said.
Melvin’s family claimed that he was upset that he was not granted leave. He had told the family that he would leave for home on January 5 and that his leave had been sanctioned for a fortnight.
But on January 5, his leave was cancelled and he was posted on-duty outside the gun department.
“To join the Navy was his own decision. So he would not talk about his workplace harassment for months. But he started opening up to his mother and two younger brothers around 20 days ago. He said he could not take the harassment anymore and wanted to leave the job. He said he would come back to the village and start some business. He complained that he was being targeted, punished and abused at the workplace,” Mr. Selvam said.
The family is to leave for Mayiladuthurai in Nagapattinam on Tuesday morning to perform Melvin’s last rites.
The parents, 53-year-old Devadasan and 46-year-old Jhansi Rani, were in distress and said they would have been proud, had their son died in a war, trying to protect their country.
Both of them have requested for government help since Melvin was the only earning member of the family. His two younger brothers, aged 20 and 22, are now seeking jobs.