A medical report filed by a doctor suggests she examined Rohith Vemula's body minutes after he was discovered hanging on January 17 - a disclosure that does not match the version recounted by HRD minister Smriti Irani in the Lok Sabha yesterday.
"Nobody allowed a doctor near this child, to revive this child, to take him to the hospital. Nobody allowed a doctor near him. The police has reported that not one attempt was made to take him to a doctor. Instead what was done was that his body was used as a political tool, hidden," Irani had told the House on Wednesday during a debate on caste-based discrimination in the university.
But Rajasree Malpath, chief medical officer at the University of Hyderabad's health centre, told The Telegraph today: "I reached the room where Vemula was found within five minutes of receiving an alert (around 7.30pm on January 17). His body was beyond revival."
The body was "cold, stiff and rigid," with signs of rigor mortis (a stiffening of the muscles and limbs in the body that begins about two hours after death), Malpath said.
"I examined the body for 10 minutes and declared him dead," Malpath, who has over 20 years' experience as a doctor and has in the past examined several suicide victims who had hanged themselves, told reporters in Hyderabad in the afternoon.
The News Minute, a website, had quoted Malpath as saying more or less the same thing on Thursday morning, and some television channels later broadcast the doctor's statement.
However, till late tonight, neither the Union government nor the HRD minister had responded to the disclosure. HRD officials did not respond to questions from this newspaper through the evening.
It is not clear whether Irani had planned to issue any clarification or back up her version with more information during her reply to the Rajya Sabha. She could not complete her reply as the House was adjourned following an uproar over references to Goddess Durga and Mahishasura. The Telegraph will publish the government version as and when it is made available to the media.
Malpath's medical report said she had received a call around 7.30pm on January 17 and reached the hostel where she found Vemula's body placed on a cot. The report added that pulse was not palpable, there were no heart sounds and no breathing. Vemula was declared dead around 7.40pm.
Later, the autopsy report put the time of death between 1pm and 3pm. According to the police, the nearest control room received calls from friends of Rohith soon after 7.15pm.
Zikrullah Nisha, a student, today posted on Facebook: "I was the person who called the health centre immediately after learning that Rohith had hanged himself in the hostel. Within five minutes, Dr Rajshree reached the spot, checked the pulse and declared him dead."
Against the backdrop of the versions of the doctor and the students, it is not clear whether Irani meant Rohith was found hanging in the afternoon but the information was deliberately kept under wraps till 7.20pm. If that was indeed what the minister had meant, no proof had been made public to support such a hypothesis till late tonight.
Irani had also told the Lok Sabha: "No police was allowed till 6.30 next morning, it is not me but the Telangana police saying this."
Malpath, the doctor, said: "The police arrived at the hostel within 15 to 30 minutes - students and police requested me to stay on and I remained there until nearly midnight."
Irani's statement suggests she could have been referring to the time the police were "allowed" to do something, not the time they arrived. If Irani meant the police were not allowed access to the body, that does not match what the students, Malpath and a senior police officer have said.
If the minister meant the police were not allowed to take the body for post-mortem at night, at least one student and police sources have corroborated her version but with the rider that the objective was to defuse the tension on the campus. Since the minister was dealing with a sensitive issue - that too on the floor of the House - the confusion could have been avoided had she phrased her sentences clearly or issued a clarification as soon as the doctor spoke this morning.
Kartikeya, the deputy commissioner of police who is in charge of the investigation, said the police had reached the university hostel within minutes of receiving information about the death but there was an obstruction when they wanted to shift the body for post-mortem.
"The police reached in the evening itself, and wanted to shift (Vemula's) body to the hospital for post-mortem but students obstructed (us) for some time," Kartikeya said over the phone.
A student in the university said the police were not blocked from examining the body but were not allowed to remove it for post-mortem till the morning fearing a flare-up at night. Police sources suggested that they did not press the issue since night had fallen and they did not want to compound the tension on the campus.
Vemula, a PhD scholar, and four other Dalit students had been punished by the university for allegedly assaulting a leader of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the students' wing of the RSS.
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