By Anna Isaac and Pheba Mathew
The lull of a Sunday evening going by was broken at around 5:45pm when information came trickling in that Ramkumar, accused of murdering Chennai techie Swathi at the Nungambakkam railway station in June had attempted to kill himself at the Puzhal prison.
A swarm of reporters and flashing cameras descended at the Royapettah Goverenment Hospital, nearly 20 kilometres from the Puzhal prison when word spread that he had been rushed there for treatment. “Was he alive? Had he survived? How did this happen? Why did he try to kill himself? Where were the prison authorities when he did this?” were some of the questions that reporters across mediums and languages were asking.
At around 6pm the police confirmed that Ramkumar had killed himself, with unconfirmed reports suggesting that he had bitten a live wire at the dispensary block of the prison. He had died on the way to the hospital.
Anticipating the large media contingent that would arrive at the Royapettah Government Mortuary, the Chennai police had done well to prepare themselves. Around 100 police officers – men and women- stationed themselves inside and at the gates of the morgue, where Ramkumar’s body had been kept. No one was allowed in.
Journalists, videographers, photographers and curious on-lookers stood on the Royapettah Main Road, partially blocking the Sunday evening traffic, waiting for more information on the suicide. A relative of Ramkumar, claiming to be his cousin, arrived at the mortuary gate. Under the glaring lights of the rolling cameras, he was denied entry by the police. He poured out his pain and anger on live TV, demanding answers for his cousin’s alleged suicide.
Across the road, at the Royapettah Government Hospital, where Ramkumar had been wheeled in to the casualty ward, doctors said Swathi’s alleged killer had been brought in dead at around 5:30pm. “He had a wound on the left side of his mouth and on his chest,” said a senior doctor, as he declared it as death due to electrocution.
Back at the mortuary, Ramaraj, Ramkumar’s lawyer arrived at the mortuary at around 7:30pm. The police stationed at the gate refused to allow Ramaraj to see his client’s body. Even as he argued with the police to let him inside, the advocate called Ramkumar’s death a pre-planned murder and refused to believe it was suicide. He told the media that he had met with the 22-year-old on Saturday and he did not appear to be depressed. He had no reason to kill himself.
As television cameras crowded around Ramaraj, another group of cadres belonging to the Thanthai Periyar Dravida Kazhagam and the VCK tried to make their way into the mortuary. They shouted slogans against the Tamil Nadu government, demanding an investigation into Ramkumar’s death. “Give us answers, give us answers, the Tamil Nadu government should give us answers. We want justice for Ramkumar,” they cried. When police refused to open the gate, the group of 20 men sat on the Royapettah Main Road, blocking traffic on both sides of the road.
With traffic piling on the arterial road, the police were quick to react once more. As buses and cars backed up, the police placed barricades on the road, re-routing traffic along the stretch. The group continued to shout slogans, forcing shops opposite the mortuary to down their shutters.
A sudden cloud burst served to dampen the tense mood at Royapettah. The Chennai police, however, were leaving nothing to chance. As darkness fell, constables lined the Royapettah Main Road, anticipating more protests in the hours to come.