Was Madkam Hidme raped and killed? New autopsy no closer to finding truth
Fifteen days have passed since Madkam Hidme was allegedly murdered. But the cause and circumstances of her death, even after two autopsies, remain in doubt. The report of the second autopsy, ordered recently by the Chhattisgarh High Court, has in fact raised more questions than it has answered.
Hidme, a resident of Gompad village in Bastar was allegedly picked up by the police on 13 June, from in front of her parents. She was found dead not long after.
While the police claimed to have killed her in a "genuine encounter", her parents and human rights activists alleged that she shot dead in cold blood. The parents, fighting to get justice for their daughter, have received death threats, and have asked for security.
After an appeal from the parents, who alleged the security forces had killed their daughter after raping her, the high court, on June 23, asked for a fresh post-mortem to be conducted on Hidme.
The first post-mortem had been conducted at a community health centre in the nearby Konta village, a day after her death. Hidme's body, according to her parents, had several sharp wounds, but it was not clear if they were the result of sexual assault or caused by the post-mortem examination.
The second post-mortem was conducted at Maharani Hospital in Jagdalpur.
According to a high court official who has seen the latest autopsy report, it contains several "surprising" details. "The doctors have observed that the body was severely decomposed, which seems quite understandable since it was lying out in the open. But curiously, the report finds that the vagina and anus of the deceased were 'intact'. If there was no flesh left on her body, which was the case, how did the doctors find that?" the source wondered.
Another surprising detail is that while the first post-mortem had found a bullet wound on the left side of Hidme's body, this report found the same wound on the right side.
According to the 11-page autopsy report, Hidme's vagina was found to be "not ruptured". This, the official noted, was a "strange way" of writing a post-mortem report. "If the doctors are probing the angle of sexual assault, they usually observe whether the 'hymen' is ruptured or not. So, apart from the contradiction of how the doctors could establish this fact in the absence of flesh on her body, this strange manner of writing the report is a noteworthy fact about it."
The court official said the first post-mortem report was similarly riddled with inconsistencies. "Even the first report was written in an uncommon way. It said the autopsy had established that there was no rape on the deceased. I have seen several post-mortem reports and this is not the manner in which they are written. They usually say 'the possibility of sexual assault can't be ruled out'."
The outright rejection of the possibility of rape was taken to suggest that the report had been written with the aim of exonerating the security forces from the charge that they raped Hidma before killing her.
A vaginal swab was not taken during the first autopsy while it was still possible to do so. The examination of her pubic hair or skin would have established or ruled out the presence of semen and, thus, settled the question of sexual assault.
Hidma's parents have alleged that a bone in her arm was broken. An X-ray to verify this claim was taken during the second autopsy but, for some reason, it was not submitted to the court along with the post-mortem report.
Now, it may be too late to take vaginal swabs, the officer said, since the body was in an "advanced state of decomposition". From 14 June until 21 June, when the high court ordered another post-mortem, the body was buried in open ground, and naturally rotted.
Still, according to a person associated with the case, the hope of securing justice for Hidma and her parents isn't over. "Several people in the village, apart from her parents, saw Hidma being dragged away and slapped by the police forces. Then, women heard cries of Hidma. There are eye-witness testimonies that can be relied on. If she was last seen with the security forces and was found murdered later, then let them explain what happened to her in the meanwhile."
The lawyers representing Hidma's parents have reportedly asked the high court to take the investigation away from the Chhattisgarh Police as it is a party to the case, and hand it over to a team of retired security personnel.