Bharathan, a Rameswaram fisherman, who ‘went missing’ after his fishing boat capsized while he was fishing on the high seas in 1996, is alive and has been sighted among beggars in Colombo, family members claim.
The fisherman, who was 42 then, had set out for fishing in April, 1996 along with five others when the boat capsized.
While others were rescued, Bharathan went missing. He could not be traced for the next couple of months and there was no report of his body being washed ashore.
Believing that he had drowned, his wife, two daughters and a son conducted the rituals. As the fisherman had set out for fishing in the name of another fisherman Raju, the family members did not seek any compensation from the government.
The family had given up all hopes of his survival, when Rajesh, the fisherman’s grand nephew, an auto-rickshaw driver in Rameswaram ‘spotted him’ among beggars while watching a YouTube clipping of a special story done by Jaffna Tamil TV about a ‘beggar millionaire’ in Colombo.
The video clip showed beggars who had been begging for more than two decades in Colombo and one beggar had striking similarities with the missing Bharathan.
Rajesh showed the clip to his mother-in-law and Bharathan’s daughter – Saravana Sundari, 42 and she confirmed the man was her father.
On seeing the picture, Sundari wailed saying it was her father, Her husband Ramesh, also an auto-rickshaw driver said, “after seeing the picture she is crying and is refusing to even take food.”
Bharathan’s other daughter and son also confirmed that the ‘beggar’ was their missing father, he said.
“The fisherman’s wife Sarasu, however, is mentally unstable and is in no position to identify her husband”, he said.
The family has no idea as to how Bharathan reached Colombo. They suspect that he may have lost his memory.
M. Karunamurthy, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Meenpidi Thozhirsanga Kottamaippu has proposed to take the family members to the Collector so that steps could be taken to secure Bharathan’s return.