Kerala: Son locks up frail elderly couple in a room, till father starves to death

Torture, in the form of slow starving. The suffering of unimaginable proportions caused by their very own son. An incident so cruel and inhuman you are bound to wonder if it is true. Yet, it is. An 80-year-old man starved to death after he and his wife were found locked in a room at Mundakayam in Kottayam district on Tuesday. Skin holding their bones together, they had been subject to neglect by their son. The 76-year-old woman, who has mental health problems, was rescued by health workers.

The man, Podiyan, and his wife Ammini were found by ASHA workers and palliative care team members on Tuesday in a poor condition, without food, water, and medicine for days, at the house of his younger son. Podiyan was found lying on a bed inside the locked room on Tuesday evening while his 76-year-old wife Ammini was sitting near him. Although the couple was shifted to the General Hospital, Kanjirapally, with the help of the police and people’s representatives, Podiyan died later in the day. Ammini, who is showing signs of mental health issues, was admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital, Kottayam.

The Mundakayam police said the couple was living with their younger son Reji and his wife. “We have registered a case of unnatural death,” said a police officer according to The Hindu. A post-mortem will be carried out to ascertain the cause of the man’s death. The police are awaiting the post-mortem report before filing the case.  Mundakayam Station House Officer D Shibukumar said, “We will start further legal proceedings after the postmortem and doctor’s observation. The exact reason for death can be known only after postmortem results. We are enquiring more about the family.”

Police suspect the case to be that of elder abuse and neglect. Neighbors said that the aged couple’s younger son and his wife used to live in the same house but did not provide any kind of care for the elderly couple.

Rekha Das, Mundakkayam panchayat president, said that there were complaints earlier that the son is not taking care of his parents. However, the son didn’t allow any relative or neighbor to enter the house. Now were Asha workers or any others allowed to enter inside. The panchayat president went on to allege that though the son and his family lived in the same house they didn’t provide food to the aged parents. She said one of their relatives used to give some food to the couple through the windows when Reji and his wife went out of the house.

Palliative care workers who saw the ailing father in bed took a photo and sent it to the police. The police immediately reached the house to rescue the couple but faced resistance from the son and his wife. They had to resort to using force to bring the elderly couple out and take them to the hospital but the man passed away on the way to the hospital.

The police here have arrested the younger son, Reji, over the death of his 80-year-old father following prolonged lack of care. A case has been slapped against Reji, as per IPC 304 (causing the death of any person through a negligent act) and Senior Citizen Protection Act, said Kanjirappally DSP J Santhosh Kumar. He was absconding for two days until he was nabbed on Thursday evening.

There is a scope for greater moral vigilance on part of the neighbors and proactiveness on the part of the social workers. The judiciary should ensure that the strictest of punishment is meted to the son, and it is ensured that they are evicted from the house. The court should also make sure he pays monthly maintenance for his ailing mother once she is out of hospital care.


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