Rameswaram: A fisherman from Rameswaram, who went missing 23 years ago after a boat capsize, is believed to be alive now. Bharathan’s grandnephew spotted him in a YouTube video about beggars in Sri Lanka.

Bharathan, who was 42 at the time, had gone out to sea in the year 1996, but never returned home. 

His family believed that he drowned, after there were no reports of his body washing ashore. The family performed his last rites and sought no compensation from the government as Bharathan had ventured into the sea under a different name.

In a chance encounter, Bharathan’s grandnephew Rajesh came across a video on YouTube about a beggar in Sri Lanka, who became a millionaire.

An image of Bharathan’s look-alike was used in the video and his family in Rameswaram identified him. Rajesh showed the clip to his family and Bharathan’s daughter, who also confirmed that he was indeed her father. 

Bharathan’s wife is mentally unstable and is in no position to identify her husband. The family has no idea about how Bharathan reached Colombo. They suspect that he may have lost his memory and hence didn’t find his way back.

The district secretary M Karunamurthy promised to take the family to the collector’s office to begin steps towards his repatriation.

The family, accompanied by Karunamurthy, presented a petition to the superintendent of police, Omprakash Meena, and the district police office. 

SP Meena assured them that he would forward the petition to the collector.

Karunamurthy alleged that Bharathan and three other fishermen were arrested by the Sri Lankan navy after their boat developed a technical snag and drifted into Lankan waters.

When Johnson, son of Francis Viji, one of the four fishermen, petitioned the Lankan President, seeking the release and repatriation of his father and three others, the then Sri Lanka minister for foreign Affairs, Lakshman Kadirgamar, in his reply dated January, 3, 1998, said, “I have asked the relevant officials of my ministry to look into this matter. I will keep you informed.”