P R Palanichamy, the mining baron who heads the country’s largest granite export firm, is set to be questioned by Madurai police Wednesday after skeletal remains of four persons, including a child, were dug up from a mining quarry last Sunday following allegations of human sacrifice.
The remains were exhumed following a complaint from a former employee of PRP Granites that human sacrifices were carried out at the site, allegedly by Palanichamy’s associates each time the firm expanded business or razed local temples for mining operations.
Two associates of Palanichamy were questioned Tuesday and police are probing the role of a tantrik from Kerala who is said to have led the alleged sacrifice rituals. The victims were said to be the mentally-challenged, picked from the streets.
Last Saturday, on a complaint from M Sevarkodiyan (39), who once worked as a driver with PRP Granites, a Madras High Court-appointed committee, probing a multi-crore granite mining scam in Tamil Nadu, ordered exhumation at the quarry.
Sevarkodiyan claimed he was witness to a human sacrifice in 1998. He said he reported the matter to police in 2004, a year after he quit PRP Granites. He alleged police never probed the incident, that he was later kidnapped and assaulted.
Madurai SP Vijayendra S Bidari told The Indian Express that Palanichamy and three others named in the complaint have been summoned for questioning.
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“Palanichamy may appear before us Wednesday. Two others were summoned Tuesday and they are being questioned now. It will take a minimum one week for the experts team to analyse forensic details of the skeletal remains. We are also probing other evidences,” Bidari said.
Another police officer said they are probing the role of a tantrik who allegedly led the rituals. “There are complaints that people were killed, mostly the mentally-ill, after they were picked from the streets. They were killed in the manner animals are sacrificed. In the skeletal remains we found Sunday, coconuts had been tied to body parts,” the officer said.
V R Manoharan, senior lawyer of PRP Granites, said Palanichamy will appear Wednesday before investigators. Rejecting the allegations against Palanichamy and his firm, Manoharan accused IAS officer U Sagayam, who heads the HC-appointed committee, of foisting false cases against them.
Manoharan alleged that when Sagayam was transferred from Madurai where he was Collector, “someone misinformed him that mining companies, including ours, had a role in it… since then, he has shown his enmity by slapping false cases and complaints”.
Last Saturday, Sagayam asked police to start digging the site where Sevarkodiyan claimed human sacrifice had been carried out. Police said they would start the digging work only Sunday morning. Sagayam decided to sleep at the site, saying he “feared destruction of evidence” since the site has already been identified and marked.
Sevarkodiyan is sticking to his claim: “There is no point in being afraid or nervous. Let the truth come out. If there is a rat menace at home, we cannot burn the entire house. I will fight this case, I cannot hide or leave this village.”
A school drop-out from a village near Andipatti in southern Tamil Nadu, Palanichamy now lords over a business empire estimated to be worth over Rs 20,000 crore.
“His business is spread across the globe. He owns acres of land and quarries across the state and in a few other states as well. He has received 14 awards from the President and Prime Minister. The credit for all this goes to him and his hard work. He made crores and crores of rupees through legal channels. He is a god-fearing man, always ready to help people. He started out as a small contractor in his native village. But he did a lot to help the poor,” Manoharan said.