Bhubaneswar: Odisha-born space scientist Tapan Misra has alleged that he was poisoned with the deadly arsenic trioxide on May 23, 2017 at the headquarters of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) at Bengaluru, when he had gone there to attend a promotion interview.
Misra is a senior adviser at the ISRO and is retiring at the end of this month. The scientist said he came out in public as he feared for his life post retirement.
In a much more serious allegation, Misra said: “I will also not rule it out as a new modus operandi of adjusting seniority and clearing me, who was perceived as an obstacle. Whatever may be the reason, it was a great shame for the country and our security apparatus.”
“My contribution was in developing radar imaging satellites — RISAT, considered a very high-grade technology. We can watch the earth's surface in any situation, be it day or night, using this system. “This radar system is 10 times costlier (than the indigenous one) if we buy it (from others),” Misra said.
“The motive appears to be an espionage attack, embedded in the government set-up, to remove a scientist with critical contribution of very large military and commercial significance, like expertise in building synthetic aperture radar,” he said.
“A fatal dose was probably mixed with chutney served with snacks after lunch. What followed was a nightmare lasting for almost two years. I suffered from severe loss of blood to the tune of 30 to 40 per cent through anal bleeding. I could barely come back from hospital in Ahmedabad. It was followed by severe breathing difficulty, unusual skin eruptions and skin shedding,” the scientist said in a Facebook post on January 5. He said he was in hospitals for three years.
“It was followed by loss of nails on feet and hands, terrible neurological issues due to hypoxia, skeletal pain, unusual sensations, one suspected heart attack and arsenic depositions and fungal infections on every inch of skin and internal organs,” he added.
According to Misra, one of the directors of ISRO centres had told him on June 5, 2017, of the possibility of poison given to me. “I guess, he witnessed poison mixing in my food,” Misra said.
Two days later, ministry of home affairs security agency personnel alerted him to arsenic poisoning, the scientist said. This helped the doctors focus on the exact remedy.
Misra said he had learnt that this poison is given in molecular level suspension (crystal level is harmless) just after a heavy meal. “It is a colourless, odourless, tasteless suspension and hence cannot even be suspected. It gets absorbed through the stomach during food ingestion, kills RBCs (red blood cells) immediately to such a large extent that the fine blood vessels are clogged, leading to heart attacks and strokes within two to three hours and the victim can easily be passed off as heart attack death,” he said.
Misra also said he was “bombarded with hundreds of threatening emails to keep my mouth shut,” while he had barely escaped from a “massive explosive incident, in which the Rs 100 crore lab was destroyed” on May 3, 2018.
He alleged that on July 19, 2019, an Indian-American professor of a topmost US university suddenly appeared in his office and requested him not to utter a word in future; as a quid pro quo, his IIT-Kharagpur grandson would be accommodated in a top notch college in USA.
“I declined and he left my office at 1430 hrs (2.30 pm). And my thirty plus years contributing career was consigned to a insecure position at 1630 hrs (4.30 pm). On the same day. I was removed from all responsibilities, including SAC directorship,” Misra said.
He alleged on July 12, 2019 — two days before the scheduled launch of Chandrayaan-2 (which was however postponed to July 22) — he was poisoned again, spent a long period in hospital, and is still under treatment.
Misra also alleged of a plant to defame him by doctoring the CCTV recording of his room on January 23 and 24 last year. He sought help for his safety.
Mishra wrote, “We, in ISRO, occasionally heard about the highly suspicious death of Professor Vikram Sarabhai in 1971. Also heard occasional doubts about the sudden death of Dr S. Srinivasan, director of VSSC (Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre) in 1999. Case of Shri Nambinarayanan in 1994 is well known. But I never thought that I would be at the receiving end of such a mystery."...