| Madhabi Das at the rehabilitation centre in Baruipur on Sunday. Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha
Five years in a dark room has taken a heavy toll on Madhabi Das. The 40-year-old has lost her appetite after eating once a day for years and finds it difficult to speak coherently.
“I had breakfast and tea today after a long time. I was also served a lunch of rice, dal and fish curry… The food was good but I could not eat much… People are good here and I like this place,” said Madhabi at Antaragram, a rehabilitation centre in Baruipur, on Sunday.
Neighbours rescued the housewife from her Uma Charan Ray Road residence, where she had been confined by her in-laws for 15 years, on Saturday afternoon.
“Madhabi has become very weak and has also lost her appetite owing to confinement in a room for years,” said her doctor Swapna Jha. “She is suffering from mental illness. We are trying to acclimatise her so that she can narrate her traumatic experiences.”
On Sunday, Madhabi kept repeating her husband Madhu’s name. She, however, became tense on being asked about her mother-in-law Amala. “I do not like her,” she said, before beginning to talk incoherently.
Madhabi was found lying naked on a cot in a stinking first-floor room with only a mat and two stainless steel plates. She had relieved herself in the room and her body bore burns. Madhabi’s hair had become matted and was shaved off at the rehabilitation centre.
The day after Madhabi was rescued, the anger against the Das family was palpable among the residents of Uma Charan Ray Road, in Baruipur.
“The husband and mother-in-law should get exemplary punishment so that such incidents do not recur. What they did was simply inhuman and barbaric,” stated Kaveri Chakraborty, who stays opposite Madhabi’s house.
Police have found out that Madhu had taken Madhabi to Antaragram for treatment in 1997. He claimed that she had lost her mental balance.
The in-laws, however, soon discontinued Madhabi’s treatment and imprisoned her in the 16 ft x 11 ft room, in which she was found.
“Madhabi’s husband and mother-in-law had confined her to the house for years. They used to torture her for dowry,” superintendent of South 24-Parganas police S.N. Gupta told Metro on Sunday.
“Madhabi had been suffering from mental illness. Instead of getting her treated, her in-laws confined her to the house. We are trying to ascertain whether her in-laws tried to forcibly prove that she is deranged,” added Gupta.
Madhu, Amala and Madhabi’s 17-year-old daughter, who were arrested on Saturday, were produced before the Baruipur additional chief judicial magistrate’s court and remanded in judicial custody for two weeks.
Madhabi had got married about 20 years ago. Soon after, her in-laws started torturing her for dowry, said the police.
In 2000, the neighbours, along with Madhabi’s elder sister Purnima Saha, had lodged a complaint with the police. Madhu was arrested, but was released on bail. He resumed his torture on Madhabi, according to the investigators.
The doctor held out hope that the damage can be undone. “Madhabi is under medication from Sunday. It’s too early to say how long she will take to recover. But she can be cured,” asserted Jha.