DEHRADUN: A woman from Rajasthan who had gone missing in the flash floods that hit Uttarakhand in 2013 and was officially declared dead has apparently been found by her husband 19 months after the tragedy.
45-year-old Leela Kanwar, who hails from Rajasthan's Alwar district, was discovered in Hina Bazaar near Gangori in Uttarkashi district by her husband with the help of locals on January 3, Uttarkashi SP Jagat Ram Joshi told PTI on the basis of information gathered from locals and the gram pradhan.
The woman, who survived by begging on the streets, was too traumatised to utter even a word when she was found, he said.
However, district officials said that the husband had not approached them and they learnt of the matter from the locals and the gram pradhan. Also, the woman was not in a state to give a statement and so they have not been able to ascertain whether his claims are valid.
The SP said that the couple got separated during their visit to Kedarnath as a deluge hit the area on June 16-17, 2013.
Vijendra Singh Kanwar, who had fruitlessly searched for his wife in Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts and given up all hope of finding her, was somehow not quite convinced that he had lost her forever.
He, however, decided to search for her one last time when someone told him that a woman of unknown identity had been seen begging around in the bazaar area in Uttarkashi.
He arrived in Uttarkashi in early January and went around showing locals his wife's photograph in a bid to trace her. A local saw the photograph and at once recognised the woman.
Thereafter, Kanwar took the help of locals and launched a search for the woman, who was found in the Hina Bazaar near Gangori, the SP said.
It seems the devastating tragedy has affected her mental faculties as she did not recognise her husband. All the same, Kanwar has taken the woman back with himself to Rajasthan, he said.
The news has generated hopes for the kin of a large number of people who went missing in the tragedy. Over 4,000 people went missing after the Kedarnath tragedy, which left nearly 1,000 people dead.
However, Uttarkashi District Magistrate Indudhar Bodai said the facts of the case are still being probed because the man from Alwar never approached the administration.
"All we know about the case is based on media reports and on what locals say.
"Kanwar's wife was also not mentally sound enough to record her statement with police, so nothing can be said definitively about her identity. I have sought a report from the SP in this regard," he said.
He added that if the man from Alwar has really found his missing wife, he should come forward and apply for the cancellation of the death certificate issued in her name.
The SP, too, said that he had his doubts about the identity of the woman as she had gone missing from Kedarnath but was found in an area along the Gangotri highway, which is on a different route.
Moreover, the road by which she could have come to Uttarkashi district was rendered unusable for months by the disaster, he added.
Another reason for doubt is the statement of the nightwatchman of Gangori area, who said that he had seen the woman since 2008-2009 whereas the tragedy struck in June, 2013, the SP said.