Pushpa (name changed), a native of Salem in Tamil Nadu, had worked as a domestic worker in the apartment at Link Horizon, near Marine Drive in Kochi, only for a week. Something dreadful that happened in the apartment, owned by a leading advocate in the city, made the 55-year-old woman desperately try and escape from the flat on December 5. She dared to slide down from the balcony of the apartment, located on the sixth floor of the building, using two sarees tied together. But, in the desperate attempt to escape, the woman allegedly lost her grip and fell down, and lost her life a few days later. Her family alleged that she was tortured and locked up by her employer and that they suspect foul play in her death.
It was on November 28 that the woman started working at the apartment of advocate Imthiyaz Ahammed at Link Horizon, which is located in the heart of Kochi city. What Pushpa could have possibly wanted might have been to support her humble family back home, consisting of two daughters and a husband, who is completely blind. But two days into the work, Puspha dreaded the place and wanted to go back home, her family said.
“Two days after joining work, she had called her husband, saying that she cannot continue working there. She said the work was really hard and that they are torturing her. Though he told her to come back, the house owners did not allow her to leave. They locked her up in the room and did not let her out,” Pushpa’s brother told TNM.
The next thing the family heard was from the apartment owner on the night of December 5, that Pushpa had fallen down from the balcony and was hospitalised. Though the family immediately came to Kerala and filed a police complaint, it was after the woman succumbed to her injuries on Sunday, that the family came out with more allegations against the flat owner.
"We suspect that she was murdered. We were only informed about the issue at 10 pm on the day she fell down," her brother says.
On Monday, the woman's husband, Suresh (name changed), held a press meeting in Kochi, alleging that he was threatened by advocate Imthiyaz, asking him not to go ahead with the police complaint. "He asked me not to give a complaint and made me put my thumb impression on a document. He also offered me money. Now my wife is gone..." Suresh told the media. Meanwhile, the woman's brother told TNM that the lawyer made Suresh put his thumb impression on a blank paper.
The Kochi police have filed a case under sections 342 (punishment for wrongful confinement) and 338 (causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 370 (trafficking of persons) of the Indian Penal Code against the owner of the apartment.
Notably, this is not the first time that the flat owner, advocate Imthiyaz, is being accused of harassing domestic workers. In 2010, Imthiyaz and his wife Kamarunnisa were accused of physically assaulting a 14-year-old girl, the daughter of their then domestic worker. The couple was accused of inflicting burn injuries on the teenage girl.
The officials of the Kerala Women’s Commission, who visited the apartment complex in Marine Drive on Monday, told media that a reinvestigation should be held in the case to find out the real truth.
“The case is mysterious. Even before, the flat owner was accused of employing a 14-year-old child for work and had treated her cruelly. But then, the police only charged frivolous sections against him,” said Commission Chairperson MC Josephine. A fresh investigation is required in the present case, she added.
Meanwhile, the woman's post-mortem was held in Government Medical College Hospital in Ernakulam on Monday. Officials of the Central Police Station told TNM that the post-mortem report is awaited.