New Delhi: Roy Matthew, the soldier who had featured in a ‘sting’ video by the Quint criticising the army’s ‘sahayak’ system was found dead in a room in abandoned barracks at Deolali Cantonment on Friday. The army suspected Matthew committed suicide since his body was found hanging from the ceiling of the room. The Times of India reported that doctors estimated Mathew had been dead for around three days given the extent of decomposition.
The army told the Times of India that Matthew went missing within 24 hours of the controversial video being released on February 24. He was one of the soldiers featured in a video that showed “soldiers walking dogs of officers and taking their children to school” the same report stated.
The video “created an uproar over the British era Sahayak system,” News 18 reported.
Sources told News 18 that Matthew told his wife that he felt stressed the day after the video was aired and texted his officer an apology on February 25. He went missing the same night and was marked absent without leave (AWOL) by the army.
Matthew was attached for ‘buddy duties’ to a colonel posted as an additional officer in Deolali’s artillery centre. Police officials told Times of India that they are investigating whether Matthew felt “tortured or harassed” after the video came out. News 18 added that he was believed to be “mentally disturbed.”
The Quint video came in the wake of earlier videos circulating on social media in which BSF jawans and army soldiers are seen complaining about the treatment meted out to them about the quality of food and the sahayak – or ‘buddy’ – system in which an enlisted soldier is seconded to an officer and performs odd-jobs for him.
But while those videos were self-made, by the individuals concerned, the Quint video was shot as part of a sting operation in which Matthew did not know what the story was going to be.
Quint has since come in for criticism by other media outlets for its sting, with journalist Shiv Aroor of the India Today group writing, “It’s bad journalism that killed Army jawan Lance Naik Roy Mathew.”
BSF jawan’s case
On January 7, BSF soldier Tej Bahadur Yadav, posted at a base camp in Jammu and Kashmir, uploaded a video on Facebook complaining about the poor quality of food served to soldiers. Yadav alleged that this was due to senior officers pilfering food supplies meant for the soldiers stationed at the base camp.
Yadav posted another video on March 3 detailing the hardships he’s gone through since the first video went viral. He complained of being “mentally tortured,” according to a Hindustan Times report, and appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for support.
In the new video, Yadav also claims that his phone was confiscated on January 10 and discusses the possibility of having “Pakistani contacts” added on his phone after it was confiscated. He appeals to viewers saying, “Please don’t trust these rumours and believe only when I put out a video,” Scroll reported.
The BSF launched an inquiry into Yadav’s conduct after he released the first video and cancelled his request for early retirement given the pending inquiry, which is expected to conclude in March. Another probe into Yadav’s claims about the food determined that he was incorrect.
Yadav mentions the cancelled retirement in the new video as well. However, this video does not seem to have helped him gain any support with the union home ministry. A senior official from the ministry told Hindustan Times that Yadav’s behaviour was indicative of “gross indiscipline”.
The BSF remains unsympathetic towards Yadav and told India Today that the soldier broke rules by recording the new video.
The latest video is believed to have been recorded when Yadav’s wife Sharmila visited him at his new base. The Delhi high court granted her permission after she moved the court stating she had not heard from her husband since the first video was released and was worried about his condition, NDTV reported.