Abandoned by her husband three decades ago and shaken by the death of her younger son seven years ago, a 70-year-old woman, whose elder son was arrested in May this year for allegedly helping a Maoist get a mobile phone connection, went door-to-door collecting kerosene in a can and then set herself ablaze last Saturday. She died on way to hospital. In Muthupilakkad, a village in Kollam district, residents said Chellamma had lost her sanity, her condition worsening after she was not allowed to meet her arrested son, a 51-year-old.
Denied bail and in judicial custody, son Anandan was allowed by the court to see his mother one last time. He went home but could spend barely 10 minutes near her body. Arrested on May 12, Anandan faces charges of forgery and conspiracy. He has also been booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Police said he helped a Maoist leader, Roopesh, get a mobile phone connection by providing him copies of voter ID cards of two persons as guarantors. Anandan and Ramanan, a 38-year-old from Kollam, were held following the arrest of Roopesh in Tamil Nadu the same month. Anandan’s wife Syamala, who lives with her two daughters in a shack in the village, said of Chellamma:
“Mother lost her mental balance when Manoharan, her younger son, died in an accident in a Gujarat workshop eight years ago.” “My husband Anandan was a daily wage worker. After his arrest, mother stopped eating at home. She would roam the locality. Several times, she wouldn’t return home. We would find her curled up on verandahs by the roadside. Had Anandan been here, she would have been home,’’ Syamala said. Neighbour Gopalakrishna Pillai said Chellamma’s condition deteriorated after the arrest of Anandan. He said nobody realised what she had planned.
“She collected kerosene in small quantities from houses in the neighbourhood. She never let that can of kerosene out of her sight. Since she was known to have had some mental problem, nobody paid heed,” he said. Last Saturday night, Chellamma doused herself with kerosene and lit a match. “A two-wheeler rider saw her ablaze. She ran on to the road but soon collapsed. She was rushed to a hospital but died on the way,’’ Pillai said. The body was kept in a morgue for two days. When it was brought home for cremation, police brought Anandan. “Hundreds turned up to watch. His handcuffs were removed only when he stood near her body. He could spend barely 10 minutes there. He was taken back to the jail,” Pillai said.