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Friday, November 29, 2013

India's Nuclear Scientists Keep Dying Mysteriously | VICE United States

India's Nuclear Scientists Keep Dying Mysteriously | VICE United States
Indian nuclear scientists haven't had an easy time of it over the past decade. Not only has the scientific community been plagued by "suicides," unexplained deaths, and sabotage, but those incidents have gone mostly underreported in the country—diluting public interest and leaving the cases quickly cast off by police.
Last month, two high-ranking engineers—KK Josh and Abhish Shivam—on India's first nuclear-powered submarine were found on railway tracks by workers. They were pulled from the line before a train could crush them, but were already dead. No marks were found on the bodies, so it was clear they hadn't been hit by a moving train, and reports allege they were poisoned elsewhere before being placed on the tracks to make the deaths look either accidental or like a suicide. The media and the Ministry of Defence, however, described the incident as a routine accident and didn't investigate any further.  
This is the latest in a long list of suspicious deaths. When nuclear scientist Lokanathan Mahalingam's body turned up in June of 2009, it was palmed off as a suicide and largely ignored by the Indian media. However, Pakistani outlets, perhaps unsurprisingly, given relations between the two countries, kept the story going, noting how quick authorities were to label the death a suicide considering no note was left.
Five years earlier, in the same forest where Mahalingham's body was eventually discovered, an armed group with sophisticated weaponry allegedly tried to abduct an official from India's Nuclear Power Corporation (NPC). He, however, managed to escape. Another NPC employee, Ravi Mule, had been murdered weeks before, with police failing to "make any headway" into his case and effectively leaving his family to investigate the crime. A couple of years later, in April of 2011, when the body of former scientist Uma Rao was found, investigators ruled the death as suicide, but family members contested the verdict, saying there had been no signs that Rao was suicidal. 

Trombay, the site of India's first atomic reactor. (Photo via
This seems to be a recurring theme with deaths in the community. Madhav Nalapat, one of the few journalists in India giving the cases any real attention, has been in close contact with the families of the recently deceased scientists left on the train tracks. "There was absolutely no kind of depression or any family problems that would lead to suicide," he told me over the phone.
If the deaths of those in the community aren't classed as suicide, they're generally labeled as "unexplained." A good example is the case of M Iyer, who was found with internal haemorrhaging to his skull—possibly the result of a "kinky experiment," according to a police officer. After a preliminary look-in, the police couldn't work out how Iyer had suffered internal injuries while not displaying any cuts or bruises, and investigations fizzled out.
This label is essentially admission of defeat on the police force's part. Once the "unexplained" rubber stamp has been approved, government bodies don't tend to task the authorities with investigating further. This may be a necessity due to the stark lack of evidence available at the scene of the deaths—a feature that some suggest could indicate the work of professional killers—but if this is the case, why not bring in better trained detectives to investigate the cases? A spate of deaths in the nuclear scientific community would create a media storm and highly publicised police investigation in other countries, so why not India?
This inertia has led to great public dissatisfaction with the Indian police. "[The police] say it's an unsolved murder, that's all. Why doesn't it go higher? Perhaps to a specialist investigations unit?" Madhav asked. "These people were working on the submarine program, creating a reactor, and have either 'committed suicide' or been murdered. It's astonishing that this hasn't been seen as suspicious."
Perhaps, I suggested, this series of deaths is just the latest chapter in a long campaign aiming to derail India's nuclear and technological capabilities. Madhav agreed, "There is a clear pattern of this type of activity going on," he said.

INS Sindhurakshak (Photo via)

Read more: http://www.vice.com/read/why-are-indian-authorities-ignoring-the-deaths-of-nuclear-scientists

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