“Is this Quint journalist responsible for a soldier’s suicide?”

The Army on Friday blamed the sting operation conducted by a news website called “Quint” for driving Lance-Naik Roy Mathew to do suicide, holding that the jawan had neither been questioned by his superiors nor faced any inquiry before he went missing on February 25. After the frightening incident, the news website “Quint”, has now taken down the sting video.

Mathew (33), who had figured in the sting video critical of “buddy” system in the Army late last month, was found hanging in a room of an abandoned barrack in the Deolali Cantonment in Maharashtra on Thursday morning, as was first reported by Times Of India.

“Preliminary investigations have now revealed the suicide may be a result of a series of events which were triggered by media personnel managing to video-graph the deceased by asking leading questions on his duties as a ‘buddy’ (to a Colonel) without his knowledge. It is very likely the guilt factor of letting down his superiors or conveying a false impression to an unknown individual, led him to take the extreme step,” said the Army, in an official statement.

Mathew, may have also committed suicide due to fear that he would face disciplinary action for having figured in the sting video.

Only the word “sorry”, in fact, was Mathew’s last SMS to his Colonel, a former commanding officer of his 214 Rocket Regiment, on the evening of February 25 before he went missing at the Deolali Cantonment. After a search for Mathew, who had 13 years of service, proved futile, he was declared AWOL (absent without official leave) from that day onwards.
On February 26, as per rules, the Army issued the standard “apprehension role notice” against Mathew to the police and civilian authorities, including to his hometown in Kerala. “The identities of the Army personnel involved in the sting video (at least two jawans with their faces blurred were shown criticizing the

“The identities of the Army personnel involved in the sting video (at least two jawans with their faces blurred were shown criticizing the sahayak system) was hidden, and thereby not known to the Army (till Mathew’s body was found). Hence, there is no question of any inquiry that could have been ordered against the deceased,” said the Army. Apart from the police investigation, the Army is now conducting a court of inquiry into the entire episode.
All this, of course, does not detract from the fact the defense establishment continues to drag its feet in doing away with the sahayak system, which is widely condemned as a shameful vestige of the colonial era.

Videos of jawans from military as well as paramilitary forces criticizing the food provided to them, service conditions and the sahayak system, which is abused by some officers to reduce combatants to doing menial jobs for them and their families, are now also popping up in social media on a regular basis.

The Army in May last year had proposed to the Defence Ministry that soldiers could be replaced by “service assistants or non-combatants” in peace stations, while “status quo” be maintained in “field areas” with officers posted along the borders or in counter-insurgency operations continuing to get soldiers as “buddies” as before.

The Army says the recruitment of 29,543 service assistants, on the lines of the system of “non-combatants enrolled” in the IAF, to replace the soldiers deployed as Sahayaks in peace stations would be “cost-neutral” since it would be off-set from the existing manpower in the 1.3-million strong force. “But the matter is still under the consideration of the defense ministry,” said a source.

The Army, which currently has around 41,000 officers, contends that an officer gets a sahayak basically for upkeep of his uniform, weapons and other equipment, as also act as his radio operator and “buddy” during combat. Army chief General Bipin Rawat had also stressed this recently, holding that that sahayaks were part of a “very important and good buddy system” in combat and operational situations.

According to Satyavijayi, this case is really fishy. Wherever Barkha goes, our soldiers die. This is not the first time! A senior army man had alleged in his book that she was directly responsible for some soldiers’ deaths in Kargil. Then, while she was with NDTV, several people lost their lives in Mumbai on 26/11. Then, she carried out a story after which, terrorists used the same route that she was pointing at. Then, during Pathankot attacks, her NDTV was giving directions to NDTV. There was a token one-day ban on NDTV soon after, which created a massive outrage by the Afzal premi brigade.

And now, soon after Barkha joins Quint, another soldier has lost his life! The country needs to think, whether we need one journalist like her, or over half a dozen soldiers. The government really needs to take a call on this before it’s too late.