Delhi Police officials on Wednesday scrambled to fend charges that it had used the death of a constable to stifle protests that had swept the national capital following the brutal gang-rape of a woman in the city last week.
Constable Subhash Chand Tomar had died on Tuesday after being injured in the violence that broke out during a protest at India Gate on Sunday, the police had claimed, as it came down hard on the protesters gathering in high-profile locations in the national capital.
However, a day after he was cremated with full state honours, two witnesses who had apparently first tended to the constable after he fell unconscious during a police crackdown on allegedly violent protesters came out on TV news channels to rubbish the police claims.
An eyewitness on the spot, Yogendra, told TV channels that constable Tomar was not hurt in the mob fury but had collapsed right in front of his eyes and was being helped by other constables and bystanders like him as he fell down while walking.
"I will say what I saw. I will not tell any lie. He was not hurt by mob or trampled by them. I was standing there and saw him falling after walking a bit," said Yogendra.
Yogendra said he was with the dead cop till he was taken to hospital and when his shirt was removed there he saw no blood or injury marks or blood on Tomar´s chest or stomach.
Another eye-witness Pauline said: "I saw him falling down in front of my eyes. He had no injuries. He just collapsed and was covered in sweat. I can say that there was no crowd at all."
Images and footage from the day broadcast by some TV channels also showed a stretch of road relatively empty and unconscious constable - without any signs of external injury - being tended to by Yogendra, Pauline and a handful of cops.
Medical Superintendent of Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, Dr T S Sidhu, also said there was no external injury on the body of Tomar when he was brought there.
He said the constable was brought in a state of total collapse with no pulse.
Countering the witnesses and the doctor, the police later in the day produced an autopsy report of the 46-year-old constable that said serious internal injuries to the neck and chest had "induced" a heart attack due to which Tomar had died.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, KC Dwivedi, Additional Commissioner of the Delhi Police, cited Tomar´s post-mortem report and said the doctors have described the cause of the constable´s death as: "Myocardial infarction (heart attack) and its complications that could be precipitated by multiple ante-mortem injuries to neck and chest produced by blunt force impact."
Dwivedi said: "Constable Subhash Chand Tomar suffered serious injuries. Autopsy revealed internal bleeding and broken ribs...Injuries suffered on chest and neck were due to blunt objects which led to Tomar´s death."
Later on Wednesday, police issued a notice to Dr Sidhu, asking him to appear before them with all medical records of Tomar.
Meanwhile, at a hearing in a Delhi court, eight people accused of causing Tomar's death, who were arrested on Monday on charges including attempt to murder before being released on bail denied the accusations and said some of them were not even near India Gate when the incident happened.
The police also came under sharp attack of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) of social activist turned politician Arvind Kejriwal and several other groups over their indication that Tomar had succumbed to injuries inflicted on him by the mob.
"Neeraj Kumar (Police Commissioner) should resign immediately. Delhi Police has been telling lie after lie and unless he resigns fair investigation is not possible. His lies have now been exposed by Yogendra´s account," said AAP leader Manish Sisodia.
Delhi police officials have already been accused by Sub Divisional Magistrate Usha Chaturvedi of trying to interfere and modify the statement of the victim that was recorded a day after the incident.
Under immense pressure from several corners, top police officials on Wednesday said they were investigating the death of the constable and the probe had now been transferred to the Crime Branch.
Protests had flared across India last week after the 23-year-old medical student was raped and brutally assaulted with an iron rod by six men on a moving bus in New Delhi and then thrown off along with her male friend on the night of Dec 16.
The victim, whose condition remains delicate, is being flown to Singapore for treatment, media reports said late Wednesday.