Hyderabad Woman Says Autistic Son Was Killed at Residential Centre
Authorities at the residential centre, however, claim the boy died in his sleep.
"My life has been shattered and I'm pained by this. All I want to know is what happened to my son," says Sanghamitra Samantaray.
On 17 June this year, Sanghamitra's only son, 18-year-old Rudransh Panda was found dead at the Sannidhi Residential Centre for Life Skills at Hayathnagar, a suburb of Hyderabad.
"He was suffering from autism and he was physically fine but he had some sensory issues. He had poor hand-eye coordination and needed to depend on others for things. The place had a hospice as well as a school, so there were teachers, wardens and caretakers to look after my son," she says.
Sanghamitra has been running from pillar to post, trying to find out what exactly happened to her son since he was found dead in June this year.
What Were the Signs?
Since 2012, Rudransh Panda, fondly known as Romy was living at the Centre, which is a unit of the Sankar Foundation.
But Sanghamitra says that she had observed some changes in Romy since January this year.
Since January, I saw that he was getting weak and losing weight. He was even showing some aggressive behaviour, so we were worried. I went abroad in May and the people (at the Centre) even sent me some pictures and said that he was being good. I returned in June, and was planning to meet him on 17 June.Sanghamitra Samantaray, Romy’s Mother
However, that very morning, she received a call from the Centre that Romy did not wake up.
"They called me at 7:30 am, when they usually wake up the children at 5 am. I told them to call an ambulance and reached there, only to find him in a separate AC room, lying face up in a mattress. There was dried blood and liquid in his nose and mouth, and the blanket was up to his neck. His eyes were closed and puffy," Sanghamitra says.
They told me he had been aggressive the previous night, but they gave him food, and put him to bed. I didn’t doubt them at the time because of the state I was in. We got an ambulance and the doctors said that he had died several hours ago, and it was an unnatural death. A post-mortem had to be conducted.Sanghamitra Samantaray, Romy’s Mother
Following this, Sanghamitra recalls how they rushed from the police station to the mortuary, and as she lost her way and reached late, the viscera had already been taken.
"This is where they could have covered up, as I saw one police officer talking about an external injury, but another one shushing him up," she says.
Is This a Cover-Up?
After repeated attempts, Sanghamitra obtained a copy of the FIR and the post-mortem examination (PME) report, (a copy of which is with TNM) which stated that Romy had died around 18 hours before the autopsy, suggesting that he had died at around 9pm on 16 June.
Sanghamitra now alleges that the caretakers of the Centre throttled her son, killed him, and preserved his body in the AC room.
"It had a lot of medical jargon, and did not use the word strangulation, but it points to injuries in the neck and skull and blood clots. It also says that the lungs, liver, kidney and other body parts were congested, which means that he was throttled," Sanghamitra says.
If my son was sleeping face down, and when they turned him up they saw frothy liquid flowing, why did that liquid not splutter around, when I saw him? The liquid mixed with blood was a very clear sign, which suggests that they killed him and put his body in a straight position in the AC room.Sanghamitra Samantaray, Romy’s Mother
Sanghamitra also points out that both caretakers of the Centre were missing when she visited, and suspect that they may have gotten injured while allegedly trying to strangle the 18-year-old to death.
Responding to the allegations, Ram Prasad, prinicipal of the school at the Centre said, "The boy ate in the canteen at 9 pm on the previous night. We had personally checked on him. He was getting really aggressive of late."
We checked on him and took him to the AC room, as the psychiatric medicines are heavy. When I was woken up the next day at 7 am, they found him dead. We did not even touch him and first informed the mother. We have not done anything wrong, and we are ready for any examination.Ram Prasad, Principal of Sannidhi – Residential Centre for Life Skills
A Delayed Investigation?
Sanghamitra also alleges that there was a long delay in investigating the homicide, and she had to make multiple representations to the investigating officers, the LB Nagar DCP and the Rachakonda Commissioner.
The major delay in the case was that the police was awaiting a report from the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). She has also raised two public grievances online.
The case was also registered under Section 174 of the CrPC (Suspicious Death) and not under 302 (Murder), Sanghamitra rues. However, it was later changed.
"Now that the police have booked a murder case, the question now is, who killed my son? But when I asked for a copy of the updated FIR or chargesheet, the police said that they would soon file it in the court," she says.
Sanghamitra is also demanding that guidelines of the POCSO Act be followed, and associates Romy’s moody behaviour with sexual assault that may have taken place.
"I want to know who killed my son, and why. I suspect that a big racket may be going on. I paid for them to take care of my son, and they could have sent him back, which is why I suspect something else may have happened," Sanghamitra says.
Despite this, she says that she is still awaiting justice.
This week she met Telangana DGP Mahender Reddy and demanded that the case be handed over to the CID.
(This article has been published in an arrangement with The News Minute)
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