Probe Jayalalithaa’s death

TALKING POINT

What people are talking about the demise of former chief minister of Tamil Nadu, J Jayalalithaa, on the night of December 5 has reached the highest court of the land for its intervention.

A Chennai-based non-government organization (NGO) filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Supreme Court on Wednesday (December 14) seeking an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the iconic leader’s death at Apollo Hospital in Chennai.

Jayalalithaa was admitted to Apollo on September 22 with, what her party AIADMK said, fever and dehydration. Since that time, the hospital, the government machinery and the ruling party had maintained a veil of secrecy over her health. Only after a public hue and cry, Apollo had started giving a trickle of info and issuing health bulletins later. Her party spokespersons had been upbeat about her recovery throughout her hospitalization. None, except a handful of Jayalalithaa’s confidantes, had any clue about her health condition which, at one point, triggered so many rumours that the state government had to act to scotch them.

A close look at the chronology of events and statements issued by her party functionaries, government and the hospital authorities reveals inconsistencies that are bound to raise suspicions, which have spawned various conspiracy theories.

A week after Jayalalithaa’s admittance to Apollo (September 22) what appeared to be a minor health problem, the public was told that “she had been advised a few days’ rest for recuperative treatment” (September 29); a day later a British medical specialist, Richard John Beale, was called in; on Gandhi Jayanthi Day (October 2), Apollo said she was being treated for infection and her health condition was improving; a day later (Oct 3) and after three days (Oct 6) the hospital said she was continuing to improve but needed to stay in the hospital for some more days; a fortnight later (Oct 21), Apollo and her aides said the “Chief Minister was communicating through gestures.”

Almost two weeks later, on November 4, the hospital authorities, including Apollo chairman Pratap Reddy, said “Jayalalithaa has completely recovered and it is up to her to decide when to go home”; four days later (Nov 8), AIADMK officials broke the good news that “Jayalalithaa is able to talk, cheerful and healthy’ to millions of her supporters in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere; but Apollo dampened their euphoric mood (Nov 12) saying their leader “needs recuperation” and no date was set for discharging her; but a day later (Nov 13), she was reported to have said — her first words since hospitalization—she was reborn because of people’s prayers and urged her supporters to vote for her party candidate in the November 19 by-elections.

 On November 17, AIADMK said she was breathing without respiratory support and the next day, Apollo chairman said her mental faculties were ‘absolutely normal’; and the following day (Nov 19), the AIADMK supremo was moved to a private room from the Critical Care Unit; on November 22, the Chief Minister was reported to have thanked voters for electing AIADMK candidates; three days later, on Nov 25, Apollo chief said she was able to speak with the help of a device; after ten days (December 4), her party, quoting specialists from New Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences who were treating her, disclosed in the morning that Jayalalithaa had recovered completely. But by evening it was announced that she had suffered a cardiac arrest and efforts were on to give her a new lease of life. On December 5, at 11-30 pm, Jayalalithaa, 68, was declared dead.

The PIL, which asked the apex court to get all the medical records pertaining to Jayalalithaa’s treatment at Apollo, is not the first to cast doubts about the treatment given to her and the secrecy surrounding it. On October 4, exactly one month prior to her death, social activist Traffic Ramaswamy moved the Madras High Court seeking a ‘proper’ statement from the state government on Jayalalithaa’s health to clear serious doubts about her illness and her party keeping it as a secret.

DMK chief  M Karunanidhi also called for release of her photograph to prove that there was nothing seriously wrong with Jayalalithaa. But her ruling party rejected the demand. Nevertheless, Apollo and AIADMK spokespersons had started giving a few details after High Court’s observation that the chief minister’s health was of public concern too.

In the last one week, two other public figures have brought the same issues raised in PIL to government’s attention. Tamil actress Gautami, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, questioned the Tamil Nadu government’s ‘secrecy’ about the treatment given to Jayalalithaa.  In her letter, she asked, “Who was in charge of Jayalalithaa when she was in hospital? Why no one was allowed to see her? Why was the government kept in darkness? Who were taking decisions on her behalf regarding the treatment?”

Gauthami, who announced her separation from veteran actor Kamal Hassan a few weeks ago, was forthright in her demand that the circumstances in which Jayalalithaa died must be probed into. She said the people of Tamil Nadu have every right to know about the status of their beloved leader’s health when she was critically ill. There is a mystery shrouding the whole series of events, the 48-year-old star said.

The latest to join the chorus for a probe into ‘Amma’ death is RSS ideologue S Gurumurthy. In an exclusive interview with CNN-News18’s Executive Editor Bhupendra Chaubey, on Tuesday, Gurumurthy said, “We need to go into who did the wrong thing or something. Whether the medical discipline was observed or not is a matter of inquiry.”

There was a cover story in Tehelka magazine alleging that Jayalalitha was subjected to slow poisoning by her confidante Sasikala. Though the magazine did not produce any solid evidence, it gave circumstantial narratives which surely sowed seeds of suspicion.

And, according to social media accounts, the hacker group Legion which hacked some people’s accounts, including those of Rahul Gandhi and Barkha Dutt,  has told Washington Post that they have some “explosive” stuff if released would cause quake in India.  The hacker group is said to have named Apollo Hospitals too. The social media is abuzz that Legion may have something to reveal about Jayalalithaa’s mysterious illness.

Since the issue is in the apex court, the onus is on the Supreme Court to clear all doubts about the death of Tamil Nadu’s iconic leader.

SMR

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