'First Indian couple to summit Everest' flounder during police questioning, offer conflicting answers to same set of questions
Pune: The mountain of lies that the Pune constable couple Dinesh and Tarakeshwari Rathod piled up has come crumbling down.
The report of an internal interrogation conducted by Pune police where the two were questioned individually has shown discrepancies in their responses to critical details of their now-declared-fake Mt Everest climb on May 23 this year. Dinesh and Tarakeshwari, a senior police official privy to the report said, differed on basic questions such as the shoes they wore or even the medical treatment received after completing the expedition.
Dinesh Rathod with wife Tarakeshwari being felicitated by the then Pune police commissioner KK Pathak after their claim to a successful Everest summit
Caught in their web of lies
The Rathods had staked claim to being the first couple to have climbed Mt Everest together, having reached the peak at 6.25 am on May 23. However, on June 17, eight senior members of the Pune-based Pimpri Chinchwad Mountaineering Association approached Pune city police commissioner Rashmi Shukla raising doubt about the authenticity of the claim, after which an internal inquiry was constituted. Several holes were found in their claim and it was found that the couple had, in fact, morphed pictures of Satyarup Siddhantha, a climber from West Bengal, currently living in Bengaluru, who had summitted on May 21.
After conducting its own investigation via a three-member committee, in August the Nepal tourism ministry cancelled the Rathods’ summit certificates and put into effect a 10-year climbing ban on any peak in Nepal on the two.
A senior Pune police officer privy to the investigation said, “On June 29 and 30, we had summoned and interrogated the Rathods and initially took their statements together. However, the interrogating team realised there were differences in their responses. This prompted the Pune commissioner and DCP to conduct individual interrogations. We have also recorded their statements.”
The officer added that the Pune police is awaiting an official report of the Nepal Government’s inquiry into the fake summit. He added that based on this report, the Pune police will start preparing its conclusion.
Career at stake
"The Rathods' career is at stake. Not only have they maligned the image of the Pune and Maharashtra police by using the department flag, but also the country’s image as they morphed images of the National Flag on their fake summit pictures. This is why the issue has been taken up by the Central and Maharashtra Home department. Once we get the Nepal Government’s report, we will summon the Rathods again and ask for an explanation which will be recorded and submitted to Shukla. Her remarks will be sent to the state Home Department."
The Nepal Embassy, the officer added, was yet to revert with the report. "We have sent over 45 emails, and have even asked them to send us documents via post, but there has been no response."
The Director General of the Department of Tourism (DoT) Nepal, Sudarshan Dhakal told mid-day, "We have sent an official letter to the Foreign Ministry of Nepal stating the cancellation of the Rathod couple's Everest Summit Certificate and also that they have been banned from climbing in Nepal for 10 years. It’s now the ministry’s responsibility to send a letter to the Indian authorities."
Shukla said, “We are awaiting reports from the Nepal embassy as they too had conducted an inquiry.”
A Pune police officer, speaking to mid-day requesting anonymity, revealed the discrepancies between the responses given by Dinesh and Tarakeshwari as mentioned in the internal inquiry report. While he couldn’t identify which statement belonged to whom, the responses reveal a cooked-up story:
Q1. What was the colour and brand of the shoes used for trekking?
Response 1. Red and black. Brand was Crispi.
Response 2. Yellow and black. One brand was Millet. Don’t remember the other.
Fact 1: The Rathods wore brand new Millet mountaineering boots.
But, the photos submitted had them wearing another boot. One of the summit (morphed) photos have them wearing La Sportiva, and in another photo they are wearing Crisp boots. Which means that, in all the Rathods had three pairs of mountaineering boots each, totaling to six pairs between the two, which comes to about 6000 USD or R3.5lakhs. Technically, something like this is unheard of...
Q2. What was the time and date and weather conditions of the climb?
Response 1. Temperature was between –20 and –30ºC and weather was good.
Response 2. Temperature was between –30 and –40ºC and weather was horrible as the wind was very strong.
Fact 2: The Rathods say they summited on May 23 at 6.25 am. However, Dinesh’s individual summit (morphed) photo, with the direction of sunlight shows the time of about 11-12 am
Q3. Till when were you at Base Camp?
Response 1. We were there till 4 pm on May 18.
Response 2. We were there till 7.20 am on May 20.
Fact 3: The Rathods reached Base Camp on May 4. By then every team on the mountain had already completed its acclimatisation rotation cycles and was ready to start the summit push. The last team to arrive at Base Camp was the NCC girls team and they too arrived around April 20. If a team arrived in Base camp in the first week of May, there is not enough time to acclimatize and push for the summit. Until May 10, the couple had undergone only minor training. If a team has not started acclimatisation until May 10, it is close to impossible to summit on May 23.
Q4. Did you receive any medical treatment post the climb? How was your health (and your spouse’s) before and after the climb?
Response 1. We did not take any medical treatment.
Response 2. We sustained facial bruises and took treatment at the hospital for four hours.
Fact 4: Mohan Lamsa, the managing director of Makalu Adventures said, “The Rathods, along with the two climbing Sherpas claim summit on May 23. They returned to the Base Camp on May 28 (ideally it takes just two days to get to Base Camp). On the May 29, Dinesh Rathod asked his agency for a helicopter to be sent to airlift his wife Tarakeshwari who was ill. The couple flew out on May 31 from Base Camp and was straight sent to the hospital where according to Lamsa, Tarakeshwari was being treated for symptoms of pneumonia. It is only after she was discharged that they called for a press conference where they announced their successful summit.”
>> Brand of shoes
>> Time of summit
>> Halting spots
>> Health condition post climbing