A day after Delhi Police launched a manhunt for kathal thieves who struck in the garden of JD(U) MP Mahendra Prasad, the fate of the missing fruit remained unknown, and investigators feared the worst.
“They must have been cooked and eaten,” said an officer investigating the theft. “The two jackfruit weighed 10 kg each,” he said, giving details. The thieves must have been hungry, he guessed.
Among the clues the police have picked up so far is the “skid mark of a shoe on the newly painted wall” of the MP’s 4 Tughlaq Road bungalow, and a few fingerprints, the officer said.
Police were on Friday questioning the MP’s servants — a gardener, security guards and domestic help — living in the quarters not far from the scene of the crime.
A bewildered security guard described the daylong excitement at the MP’s bungalow, which has been swarmed by television crews since The Indian Express broke the story on Friday morning.
“They have been here since morning. TV reporters are camping outside the backyard wall, excitedly taking pictures of the jackfruit tree and the footprint on the wall. I don’t know why they are doing it,” he said.
“Mediawale subah se aake baithe hue hain. Subah se 1,000 call attend kar chuka hoon. Yeh kathal chori kaisi khabar hai?”
Police registered a case against unknown accused on Thursday after the MP’s personal assistant filed a complaint. The FIR read, “Safdarjung Lane kothi number 4 ke andar lage kathal ke ped par total 9 kathal lage hue the. 17 aur 18 ki raat mein unmein se do kathal kisi agyat vyakti ne chori kar liye hain. Kripya kanooni karyawahi ki jaye.”
(“There were nine jackfruit on the tree, two of which were stolen by an unknown person in the intervening night of the 17th and 18th. Please register a case.”)
Police said they were initially not told that the “theft” at the MP’s house was of jackfruit. “We rushed to the spot thinking that someone had broken into the MP’s house. All senior officers were informed. We realised what had been stolen only after reaching the spot. We then asked them to gave a written complaint,” an officer said.
JD(U) MP Prasad is currently in his second term in the Rajya Sabha, having earlier represented the RJD and Congress in the House. A medicine baron from Jehanabad, he is known as “King Mahendra”, and is believed to be the “purse” for any political party he represents.
An upper caste Bhumihar, Prasad is said to be in politics as a matter of social status. He could not be contacted for a comment.
On Friday, as the crime investigation team, a team from the fingerprints bureau, and the local police toiled to crack the Mystery of the Missing Jackfruit, in a local market not far from the scene of the crime sat a vegetable seller with a basket of the MP’s favourite fruit, forlornly fanning himself in the afternoon sun.
The price of his large, spiky wares: Only Rs 40 per kg. It’s a steal, he said.
(With Santosh Singh in Patna)