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Dr Gupta’s Laboratory of Madness

Jamshed Khan returns to Agra to dig up fresh evidence on the rot in mental healthcare in our country. He finds more victims and tales of murder, torture, greed and corruption. An in-depth report

Have you brought the money? First give me the money,” Dr SK Gupta demanded. The camera showed him haggling, bargaining and counting the notes with glee. Aghast viewers watched the senior psychiatrist at Agra’s mental asylum with disgust and shock as he signed and sealed the certificate. Horrified, they heard him gloat about how he had helped 10 husbands dump sane wives.
Last week, we said that the exposé on the doctor working at the Agra Mental Hospital, one of the country’s best known centres, was the symptom of a terrifying disease. A disease that’s sucking the marrow of mental healthcare in our country.

This week, we give you more evidence. It conforms to the most horrifying, Ken Kesey-esque images in our minds. Kesey, in his seminal novel-made-into-a-film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, painted the picture of mental asylums filled with sadistic, unscrupulous doctors. Of electric shocks being used as a breaking-down ploy. But the real story of Agra mental hospital includes all that and more. It throws up a pliant judiciary, torture, and a society that uses the branding of insanity as a weapon.

Meera’s family is still traumatised after their daughter was killed for dowry. The case was in court but Dr Gupta changed the complexion through another false testimony. Murder was passed off as suicide, even according to the asylum’s own internal inquiry
But first, more skeletons from Dr SK Gupta’s cupboard. Gupta, the greedy and corrupt senior psychiatrist at the Agra asylum who had no qualms in declaring normal women mentally sick without even once glancing at them.

Last week, we floundered on a question. Whether to call Gupta a pimp or a kingpin.

This week, his victims say murderer is better. They are coming out into the open, approaching our office with certificates that bear the same signature. The same testimony that ruined so many innocent lives.

What else do you call a man who declares in court that a woman — whose relations say her in-laws murdered her — was insane and that she was prone to suicide?

What else do you call a man who colludes with the accused in a dowry murder case and helps them get away?

Meera, from Mathura, got married to Yaduveer Singh of Achnera in 1997. Like a dutiful father of the bride, Udal Singh gave Yaduveer a dowry — some cash and a two-wheeler. But that wasn’t enough for Meera’s husband. Yaduveer beat Meera up often and demanded more dowry, says Meera’s brother Roshan.

Meera delivered a girl child. Her in-laws’ were enraged. A girl from a woman who had not got home enough dowry was, to them, worthy of nothing more than thrashings. But Meera survived then. Three years after her marriage, in December 2000, she didn’t. Her family got a call from her in-laws. They told Meera’s family that she had hanged herself. Meera’s father and brother rushed to Achnera. They found only Radheshyam, Meera’s father-in-law, in the house. Yaduveer was away in Jalandhar, where he was then working as a manager in a hotel.

July 17, 2004

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