Assam Home Secretary Shiladitya’s suicide could have been prevented

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 25-06-2024
Shiladitya Chetia and his wife
Shiladitya Chetia and his wife


Pallab Bhattacharyya

“Home Secy commits suicide minutes after his wife's death”-the headline of The Sentinel dated 19th June 2024 and all sections of the print and electronic media announced. The unfortunate death of Shiladitya Chetia in the wake of the death of his ailing wife does not augur well for the police as well as for society.

We should delve into the reasons for this drastic action by an experienced and fine officer who served in many challenging positions. His latest posting as Home Secretary of the State is also an eloquent testimony to his excellence in professional career.

After his death, I am receiving information from my collegemates and others about episodes affecting their life and professional careers and how Shiladitya resolved those issues to their satisfaction these episodes speak volumes of his empathetic and sympathetic qualities so essential for a public servant.

Empathy and sympathy are both important qualities that can greatly impact our lives, especially during challenging times. While they share similarities, they have distinct meanings. Both these qualities are important in navigating a challenging life like police or civil service. They provide emotional support, facilitate effective communication, and help foster resilience and well-being. By showing empathy or sympathy, we create a safe space for others to express their emotions, feel heard, and find comfort.

Assam Police jawans in a ceremonial Parade

However, an ordinary citizen who is influenced by electronic, print, and omnipotent social media tends to believe that Shiladitya who was so much in love with his life partner and empathetic to her terminal ailments took the drastic step on the 18th instant because of his emotional dependence on her.

Society should try to analyze the reasons for such drastic steps undertaken by him. Are the stakeholders viz, the family (his close relatives), Police or civil service as an organization of which he was an integral part and doctors who were treating his wife at various points of time fail to do the needful to prevent this tragedy?

Suicide is a complex issue, often stemming from mental health challenges, feelings of hopelessness, and a lack of support or resources.

 Coming to the role of Civil Service and Police, it is quite clear that the controlling officers of the deceased were well aware of the tragedy faced by Shiladitya because of his terminally ill wife. Had the police been aware of the mental turmoil of Chetia, corrective action like withdrawing his weapon would have, in all likelihood, prevented this tragedy.

Were any efforts made by the police as an organization to ameliorate his sorrows? Is there any organizational structure put in place to avert such mishaps? If not, it is high time to introduce such arrangements by the civil service to avert such incidents in the future. Furthermore, the latest law of the land on the culpability of an individual attempting to commit suicide states: "Any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.

ALSO READWhy is Muslim Tajikistan imposing ban on hijab, kids' participation in Eid

The appropriate Government shall have a duty to provide care, treatment, and rehabilitation to a person, having severe stress and who attempted to commit suicide, to reduce the risk of recurrence of attempt to commit suicide." (The Mental Healthcare Act 2017).

 (The writer is a retired DGP & former Chairman Assam Public Service Commission)