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Erwadi fire incident is an accident that occurred on 6 August 2001, when 28 inmates of a faith-based mental asylum died in the fire. All these inmates were bound by chains at Moideen Badusha Mental Home in Erwadi Village in Tamil Nadu.[2][3]

Erwadi fire incident
Erwadi Fire1.jpg
Charred remains of the victims and the Moideen Badusha Mental Home at Erwadi
Date6 August 2001[1]
LocationErwadi, Tamil Nadu, India
28 dead

Large number of mental homes existed in Erwadi which was famous for the dargah of Quthbus Sultan Syed Ibrahim Shaheed Valiyullah, from Medina, Saudi Arabia who came to India to propagate Islam. Various people believe that holy water from the dargah and oil from the lamp burning there have the power to cure all illnesses, especially mental problems. The treatment also included frequent caning, beatings supposedly to "drive away the evil". During the day, patients were tied to trees with thick ropes. At night, they were tied to their beds with iron chains.[4] The patients awaited a divine command in their dreams to go back home. For the command to come, it was expected to take anything from two months to several years.

As the number of people seeking cure at dargah increased, homes were set up by individuals to reportedly take care of the patients. Most of these homes were set up by people who themselves had come to Erwadi seeking cure for their relatives.

The origins of the fire are unknown, but once it spread, there was little hope of saving most of the 45 inmates, who were chained to their beds in the ramshackle shelter in which they slept, though such shackling was against Indian law. Some inmates whose shackles were not as tight escaped, and five people were hospitalized for severe burns. The bodies of the dead were not identifiable. [5]


All mental homes of this type were closed on 13 August 2001, and more than 500 inmates were placed under government's care.[6] As per Supreme Court directions, a commission headed by N. Ramdas was set up to enquire into these deaths. The commission recommended that care of mentally ill people is to be improved, that anybody wishing to set up a mental home to acquire a license, and that all inmates be unchained.[7]

In 2007, the owner of the Badsha Home for the Mentally Challenged, his wife and two relatives were sentenced to seven years imprisonment by a magistrate Court.[8]


  1. ^ "Chronology of major fire accidents". Hindustan Times. New Delhi, India. 9 December 2011. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2013. – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  2. ^ Asha Krishnakumar (August 18, 2001). "Deliverance in Erwadi". Frontline. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  3. ^ "Indian mental homes face closure". BBC News. August 8, 2001. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  4. ^ Tarun Arora (August). "Indian Parliament: Responding To International Obligations Regarding – The Rights Of Mentally Retarded People". Legal Service India. Com. Retrieved 24 August 2011. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. ^ BARRY BEARAK (August 8, 2001). "25 Inmates Die, Tied to Poles, In Fire in India In Mental Home". New York Times. Retrieved 21 August 2017.
  6. ^ ASHA KRISHNAKUMAR (August 2001). "Escape from Erwadi". Frontline. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  7. ^ ASHA KRISHNAKUMAR (November 9, 2002). "Probe report on Erwadi". Frontline. Retrieved 24 August 2011.
  8. ^ "Erwadi: Accused get 7 yrs' RI". Express news service. Indian Express. Oct 31, 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2011.

Coordinates: 9°51′00″N 78°51′04″E / 9.85000°N 78.85111°E / 9.85000; 78.85111