Rameswaram : Four people were sentenced to jail here Monday for causing the death of 28 mentally ill people in a fire at a shrine in Tamil Nadu’s Erwadi town six years ago.
The dead were mentally ill, brought to a dargha (a mausoleum of a Sufi saint, believed to have healing powers) and left there “to be healed by divine intervention”.
They were charred to death when a fire broke out at about 5 a.m. in the privately-run asylum on Aug 5, 2001, near the Erwadi shrine, about 25 km from Ramanathapuram town.
There were about 40 inmates in the asylum which had a thatched roof. A lamp was left burning, which caused the fire. Most of the people were chained to stakes and could not escape the fire. Most bodies were unrecognisable.
The N. Ramdas Commission, which inquired into the deaths, concluded that the inmates died as they had been fettered. The caretakers of the place were busy retrieving their own personal belongings and did not take steps to save the inmates.
The owner of the asylum was given 96 years in jail while three other workers at the asylum got 10 years each.