Six months after 23-year-old Melvin Raj of Tamil Nadu died of a gunshot on board Indian Naval Ship ‘Talwar’ in Mumbai, his family is running from pillar to post to know the circumstances that led to the incident.
Suspecting foul play, the aggrieved family is demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the sailor’s death.
Many questions are being raised about the alleged suicide of Raj on January 5, 2013. On the basis of a petition by T. Devadasan to the Chief Minister’s Special Cell that his son’s death was caused due to unbearable harassment by some senior officers, the State government on May 27 wrote to the Defence Secretary seeking necessary action.
Mr. Devadasan claimed that on January 4, Raj called his mother and said he had booked a ticket and would be coming home on leave a couple of days later. Accusing some officers of harassing him, the sailor said he had lodged a complaint against them.
However, the next day the family received a call that Raj was critically injured in an accident and was admitted to a hospital. On reaching Mumbai, naval authorities told them that he had committed suicide by shooting himself. “We were not allowed to see the place where he committed suicide. His colleagues were not permitted to meet us…” he said in his petition.
Raj’s younger brother D. Jayaseelan said the naval authorities refused access to the post-mortem report and did not tell them about the status of the investigation into the incident.
“They say Raj shot himself in the armoury of the ship after locking the door from inside. Navy personnel claimed to have seen the body through a window. We hear that the armoury in ships is located in the lower deck where there are no windows…this was not a suicide.”
He said the sailor had given in writing to the Navy that he was unwilling to serve the force. He was preparing to leave the ship permanently. “It is a fact that he lodged a complaint against senior officers…having decided to quit service, why will he commit suicide,” Mr. Jayaseelan asked.
As there was no response to a pension application, the family went to Mumbai this week. “We were not even allowed to enter the premises. After shunting us from one gate to another, a Navy guard made us wait for hours and later forced me to leave…all this would have been recorded in the CCTV network in the Mumbai naval dockyard,” he said.
Maintaining that a probe by the CBI would alone unravel the truth and circumstances that led to the death of Raj, Mr. Jayaseelan alleged that the sequence of events as narrated by naval officers on the night of January 5, 2013 on board INS Talwar were conflicting.