Maharashtra’s Nashik Police on Monday booked a journalist in connection with the alleged suicide of Indian Army soldier Lance Naik Roy Mathew. Poonam Aggarwal has been charged with criminal trespass and abetment to suicide under relevant sections of the Official Secrets Act and the Indian Penal Code, reported The Indian Express. Aggarwal had shot a sting video in which Mathew had highlighted the prevalent “sahayak system” in the Army and accused his seniors of harassment.
Officials told The Indian Express that Aggarwal was booked based on a complaint filed by the Army. “They have given an application expressing concern over the journalist entering a prohibited area with a spy camera and filming an Army premises, which is not allowed. After studying the application, a case has been registered,” an officer told the daily.
The police have also recorded Aggarwal’s statement. “She has given us a chronology of the events leading to the sting operation and has also shared details of the contacts within the Army who helped her get inside the prohibited area,” another officer said. The police have made copies of the journalist’s chats with a number of jawans whom she had spoken with on an app-based messenger service while working on her story.
Aggarwal, on the other hand, believes that the charge of trespassing was an “afterthought”. She told The Indian Express, “After my story was published online, I had shared the link with the Army. At that time, they did not raise any question about me entering a prohibited area. Instead, they told me they will probe the allegations made by the jawan in the sting operation.”
She has also blamed the Army’s internal inquiry committee for Mathew’s suicide. The soldier’s family had suspected foul play and demanded an investigation into his death, as well. They had alleged that Mathew was tortured, harassed and kept in confinement after appearing in the video.
The 33-year-old gunner from Kerala was found hanging from a ceiling fan in a room near Deolali Cantonment in Nashik on March 2. He had gone missing from his camp on February 25, a day after he appeared in the video. The clip, which had featured soldiers walking dogs of senior officers and taking their children to school, had sparked a controversy over the British-era practice.