An Army Jawan named Roy Mathew, who was working as a sahayak (helper), was found dead on Thursday in the Devlali Cantonment in Maharashtra. He was found hanging from the sealing of an abandoned barrack and doctors speculate that he might have died at three days prior to Thursday.
The Jawan had allegedly featured as an unnamed sahayak in a report filed by website The Quint on 24th February, which talked about the menial jobs the sahayaks have carry out. The website carried out a “sting operation” in the same cantonment, which showed sahayaks carrying out jobs they should ideally not be doing.
Roy Mathew had gone missing a day after The Quint article was published. In a phone call to his wife, he reportedly claimed that he faced some serious problems with regards to his job and that his seniors had come to know that he was talking about the same to the media.
The Quint article, through the sting operation, “exposed” how the sahayaks were made to do tasks like walking their assigned Officer’s pets, dropping the Officer’s kids to school, driving his wife to the market, and even washing their clothes. As per that article, the sahayak’s duties should only include:
- Maintaining officers’ weapons and uniforms.
- Assisting in digging trenches and shelters during war, training, or exercises.
- Ease officers’ burdens during planning and execution of operations
The issue of regular soldiers being asked to do such jobs have often been criticized. In 2010 a parliamentary committee on defense had asked the army to take a cue from the Navy and the Air Force and abolish the system. Last year in May, there were reports that suggested that the practice, which finds its roots in colonial British Army, could be stopped.
As recent as in January this year, a soldier named Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh had uploaded a video on YouTube, which talked about these issues with the sahayak system. Therefore, it’s not too clear what extra information The Quint was trying to pass through a “sting operation”.
The entire affair became even more mysterious as The Quint proceeded to remove both the article and the video of the sting operation after the news of Mathew’s death came in.
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) March 3, 2017
Was this an admission that the website had erred and perhaps ended up revealing the identity of Roy Mathew, thus putting him under stress and pressure? Adding another angle to it is a report that claims that Mathew had given an interview, on conditions of anonymity, to Marathi TV channel that aired on 27th February, which is three days after The Quint report. Mathew is quoted as telling his wife that he had committed a big mistake, apparently referring to his media interactions.
So in all probability, this tragic death is result of media not being careful about protecting his identity. While The Quint used a sting operation that was perhaps not needed, the unnamed Marathi TV channel appeared to have gone back on their words to keep his identity secret. The deletion of the article and video by The Quint surely hints at some sort of admission of guilt. However, a probe is required to ascertain what caused Mathew to get so scared for his life and job.
A probe is also need to find out if Mathew’s death was a suicide under stress or was there some kind of foul play? One also hopes that the issue of soldiers being asked to do menial jobs as sahayaks is finally settled by the Army after this has taken a life of a Jawan.