MUMBAI — A 33-year-old soldier who was part of a recent expose by a website on the British-era “sahayak” or orderly system in the army was found hanging in the barracks on Thursday.
Roy Mathew, gunner in the Deolali Cantonment in Maharashtra, had been missing since last Saturday, reported NDTV. His body was found in a decomposed state in unused barracks. The police say a post-mortem could establish whether it was a suicide or murder. For now, an accidental death report has been registered.
The army has ordered a court of inquiry.
“We were shocked to hear the news. His diary is in the custody of the police,” said Roy Mathew’s brother Jijo Jose, revealing that he had called his family last Friday, a day before he went missing. “After that, his phone was switched off. He didn’t indicate he was tense. We tried calling him…There was no problem with the family. Things were normal. The suicide is very shocking,” he said.
Army sources have denied reports 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. They say after the sting operation was reported, the soldier could not be identified because his face was masked – but he did send a one-word SMS to an officer saying “sorry” on February 25.
The sources say he then went AWOL and the police were informed.
The video has been removed from the website. The soldier reportedly contacted the site after the video of another jawan – Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh – describing menial jobs as a sahayak became viral in January and was widely reported. Lance Naik Singh, in the video posted on YouTube, alleged that he was forced to wash clothes, polish boots and walk dogs for his seniors. He flagged his complaint to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others in a letter. In recent months, there has been more than one video of soldiers complaining about poor conditions and exploitation.