By: Debarati Palit Date: 2009-07-08 Place:Pune
Academy rubbishes family's claim that victim had been humiliated, tortured and punished by seniors
In what could seriously smudge the National Defence Academy's (NDA) impeccable track record of producing the country's finest young soldiers, the family of a first-year student who died on July 2 has alleged brutal ragging by seniors.
To top it, a student who was in the deceased student's batch told MiD DAY that he left his dream NDA course because his left hand had gone partially immobile because of ragging.
While the NDA has robustly refuted the charges, if proven true, this could be India's Code Red, a draconian military tradition of fatal bullying by seniors made famous by the Tom Cruise-Jack Nicholson starrer A Few Good Men.
The institute in its police statement had called it an "accidental death" and said that 19-year-old cadet Nitesh Gour collapsed while practising for a cross-country marathon event.
However, Nitesh's father Ram Narayan Gour told MiD DAY from Bhopal on Tuesday: "We are not satisfied with the explanation which the NDA officials have given us. Their contention that our son died during routine practice is unacceptable as he was very fit and fine. We suspect that he might have been a victim of severe ragging or punishment." He suspects Nitesh was forced to run till he collapsed.
Nitish's uncle Manmohan Gour said Nitesh on many occasions had told his cousin sister (Manmohan's daughter) how he and his friends were being ragged and punished mercilessly by seniors at the premier institute.
"Nitesh had told her that once he was couple of minutes late for dinner and his senior made him study the entire night without shutting his eye," he said. Nitesh had apparently said all drills and physical exercises were conducted by senior cadets and not by academy officials. These seniors apparently decide the kind of punishment each student would face.
The family claimed that since the boy's death, not a single official had contacted them with the post-mortem or other reports.
The other boy
Another boy from Bhopal who was Nitesh's batchmate in the NDA has made an identical allegation. Aditya Sharma had joined the academy in December (Nitesh joined in January).
He told MiD DAY on Tuesday that severe ragging and punishment forced him to come back home in just about three months.
Aditya left hand does not move properly nowadays. He said the nerves in his hand got damaged after he was made to do forward-rolls on stony ground in his underwear.
"My son was kept complaining about the ill-treatment at the academy. He kept telling the authorities that he was facing some problems in his left hand but no one took notice," said father Anand Sharma.
"When things got serious in March, we got him back to Bhopal and had a thorough check-up. He cannot move his hand properly for many months now."
NDA rubbishes claims
"These are baseless allegations. Do you really think something like this can happen in a prestigious place like the NDA?" said NDA spokesperson Major Bhagirath Dey. Captain Mahendra Dimri denied all charges saying that it was not a first-hand report from the student.
"There is no truth in whatever the families are saying. You cannot believe the words of a father who has lost his son last week and also those who are no more part of NDA [Aditya and his family]," he said.