It has been two weeks since Durga held onto her 3-year-old son's limp body, covered in black soot, at the Kilpauk medical hospital. Sanjay had choked to death along with his cousin, grandmother and great-grandmother at an apartment complex in Vadapalani, after a fire broke out in the basement.
News reports that followed the incident revealed that the apartment was built illegally, and the owner had not obtained the required permissions. Having completed the last rites for her family members on Monday, this young mother claims that the shock of having lost her son is yet to wear off.
With formalities now finished, Durga wants to ensure that the man responsible for the death of her family members is punished.
(3-year-old Sanjay who died in the apartment (extreme left))
But with not even an FIR filed against the owner, an AIADMK member named Vijaykumar, her thirst for justice won't be quenched anytime soon.
"The owner is currently in hiding and we cannot arrest him," says an investigating officer. Vijaykumar had absconded a day after the fire broke out. "Cases regarding this particular apartment are still pending in the High Court and Supreme Court. How can we arrest him when there is an ongoing case?" he adds, attempting to justify the lack of action.
The affected family is aware that this fight will not be easy. "We know we have to run from pillar to post. There is no choice. The police will not share any information readily about the case," laments Narayanan, Sanjay's father.
Officers handling the case had earlier told TNM that they would arrest the owner as soon as they find him and produce him in court. They even admitted that he was close to the T Nagar MLA Sathya and had failed to comply with court orders to demolish the building. Now, however, they claim that action can only be taken after evidence of negligence and illegalities is collected.
"We have sent questionnaires to various departments regarding this case and asked for replies. Once we gather enough evidence we will find and arrest him," says the officer. "If we get hold of him, he may just find a legal loophole and escape," he adds. As of now, merely an FIR stating 'accidental fire' has been filed.
The DMK is however alleging that it is Vijaykumar's political links that have stopped the police from taking appropriate action. "We all know the building had no approvals. These days, when children drown in a pool, the principal is named in the case for negligence. Doesn't that principle apply here?" asks Saravanan, a DMK spokesperson.
"We don't understand the approach the police is taking. Just because someone has a case pending in the Supreme Court, it doesn't mean that they can keep committing criminal offence. The Government itself should learn to come out and take responsible action," he adds.
At close to 4.30am on May 7, what was reportedly a short-circuit led to a fire in the parking lot of the RJES apartment at Vadapalani. Over 20 bikes and cycles parked there caught fire, engulfing the building in thick smoke. An elderly woman named Meenakshi (60), her daughter Selvi (38) and two children - Sandhya (10) and Sanjay (3) died from suffocation due to the thick smoke. Five others were severely injured in the incident.