The man who set himself and his family ablaze outside a collectorate in Tamil Nadu to protest repeated harassment by a moneylender and inaction by officials died in a hospital on Wednesday afternoon. P Isakimuthu’s wife Subhulakshmi and two daughters died on October 23, the day they set themselves on fire outside the Tirunelveli collectorate. Isakimuthu died in Tirunelveli Medical College.
While alleged harassment by the moneylender and police inaction are believed to be the reasons for the suicides, a police inquiry claimed Isakimuthu (28) had a lot of debt and faced complaints from many people for not repaying money. A senior police official said an internal inquiry has been ordered to look at the alleged lapses of police officers.
The office of the district collector confirmed that there were six petitions from Isakimuthu in September against a woman and her associates who had demanded repayment of an amount with a huge interest. Chief Minister E K Palaniswami was quoted by PTI as saying: “I have directed district collectors and police officials to take quick action on complaints received from people about charging of exorbitant interest rates, based on the 2003 legislation brought in by Amma (Jayalalithaa).”
Isakimuthu had come to the collectorate on Monday morning along with wife, two children and two relatives. Police think that the others with him had no clue about his plan of self-immolation. “We suspect that he wanted to raise a suicide threat… but it went beyond control,” an officer said.
The NHRC has sent notices to the state chief secretary, police chief and Tirunelveli district collector and police superintendent, seeking a report in four weeks. “If borrowers fail to pay the interest, they are physically and mentally harassed… authorities are not taking appropriate action… rather people are being harassed by the police in connivance with moneylenders,” the NHRC said.