Unclaimed woman with relatives in Mumbai laid to rest by Tamil Nadu cops, activists

Updated: 19 November, 2020 09:14 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

They managed to track down relatives of Lakshmi Iyer, who had got lost in the lockdown, but they were unwilling to claim her body

The police and civic workers buried Lakshmi Iyer
The police and civic workers buried Lakshmi Iyer

The Tamil Nadu police traced people believed to be related to deceased senior citizen Lakshmi Iyer in Coimbatore and Chennai on November 14. However, the family said that they do not know a Lakshmi, but knew a Kamala with whom they haven't been in touch for 20 years. The families in Chennai and Coimbatore told mid-day they had received calls from the Thideer Nagar police in Madurai on Saturday. They were not in a position to visit to identify Lakshmi due to old age and a personal tragedy.

Also read: Lost In Lockdown, Chennai Woman, 69, Dies All Alone In Madurai Lodge

Lakshmi Iyer, 69, was found dead on the morning of November 12, in room no 1 of a lodge in Madurai, where she was staying since November 10.

Lakshmi Iyer, 69
Lakshmi Iyer, 69

"My late elder brother Sadashivan had married one Kamala. I am surprised as to how Kamala could have become Lakshmi and how police got our contact number," an elderly person from Coimbatore said.

"We cut off ties with Kamala. After my brother's demise, we have no clue of Kamala's whereabouts. We had learnt that she had a daughter who died of cancer, and her son ran away from home after Std X. We do not know if they had property in Navi Mumbai or Mumbai."

The mortal remains of Lakshmi Iyer were buried at Sellur. They will be exhumed if within 10 days a relative approaches the police
The mortal remains of Lakshmi Iyer were buried at Sellur. They will be exhumed if within 10 days a relative approaches the police

"It is not possible for any of our family members to visit Madurai due to COVID-19 and our old age. We want to be out of all this, and have nothing to do with the demise of Lakshmi Iyer or Kamala," he added. Both the families, one in Coimbatore and one in Chennai, were shown photographs of Lakshmi Iyer but could not recognise her as they said they hadn't seen her in 20 years.

The relative from Chennai said that she and her husband were too old to travel to Madurai and have switched off the mobile phone since. Sub-Inspector C Panaraj of Thideer Nagar police station said, "We had tried to reach all possible sources including local media. We even circulated the article that had appeared two months ago in mid-day. We got relatives' contact details in Coimbatore and Chennai. The Coimbatore-based relative was in his late seventies and claimed to be unwell."

The police then contacted the Chennai number, which was answered by an elderly lady, who said they were not on talking terms with Iyer for past 20 years and were very old to travel and were going through a tragedy in the family. "We requested them to send some young person to identify the body, but they expressed their inability to do that. We had tried other numbers in the diary, but most people had met Lakshmi for some work or the other, and had no clue about her family or about her relatives," said Panaraj.

A Harikrishnan, 48, founder of Nethaji Medi Trust, who helps the Tamil Nadu police lay to rest unclaimed and unidentified bodies, said he received phone calls from Mumbai, Kerala and Chennai from over 50 people, who were upset with the demise of Lakshmi Iyer and were keen to know if the police could make any headway in tracing her relatives.

On Wednesday the mortal remains of Iyer were taken for an autopsy to the Rajaji Government hospital. The remains were then taken to Sellur, three kilometres from the hospital, where the police and the municipal staffers buried the body.

Harikrishnan said, "I spent approximately R5,000 for the last rites. I wanted to shave my head, but since my daughter is getting married two days later, I postponed the same. I will visit Rameshwaram and perform all rituals, which is a normal practice I have been following for all the unclaimed and unknown bodies I have laid to rest in a year. This case was different, Lakshmi Iyer, was from a decent family and was a well-educated lady. Though I did not meet her, those who came in contact with her spoke about her with high regard and respect. It is unfortunate that she had to die such a death tagged 'unknown'.

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First Published: 19 November, 2020 07:29 IST

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