Days after the skeletal remains of four persons were dug up from a mining quarry after a former employee levelled allegations of human sacrifice against P R Palanichamy, the mining baron who heads PRP Granites, another villager has claimed that he was witness to one such sacrifice in 2002.
Fearing a threat to his life, the 71-year-old, who lives in a village about 40 km from Madurai, requested anonymity. Recalling the incident, he said he could not remember the exact date, but it was some time in 2002.
The villager said he was approached by Palanichamy’s associates to shift the local deity, Thottiyan Swamy, a trishul, near Keelavalavu junction to less than half-a-kilometre away, “as they had expanded the quarry work there”. He said he was obliged to be a part of the ritual as it was his family deity — the trishul was on his family land which was later sold to PRP Granites.
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“I was obliged to do the ritual as it was my duty. Thottiyan was the saviour who witnessed all ups and downs in my family for several decades. The ritual was fixed for a Friday. I fasted on Thursday… I was taken to the site for a rehearsal as they didn’t want any obstacle on my path when I carried the deity to the new site. It is believed that anyone that acts as an obstacle during the ritual may be killed,” he recalled.
“On that Friday morning, I took a bath in a pond near the village temple. I was taken to the spot in their vehicle at about 9:45 am,” he said. When he reached the site, he said, there were about six people — a manager, accountant, two employees of the PRP group, a tantrik and a man who had been pinned down. He could identify everyone except the tantrik and the victim.
“I was wearing red clothes, with a chain and necklace, and my forehead was smeared with ash and vermilion. The tantrik was wearing normal clothes, with only a copper amulet to indicate his line of work,” said the villager. “Although I was standing at a distance, about six feet away, I could see them forcefully pinning down the ‘sacrificial offering’. I could make out that the victim had a beard and seemed to be about 25-27 years old. After reciting some mantras, the tantrik sat next to the victim,” he said.
“The tantrik was talking in Malayalam mixed with Tamil. I saw something slice the throat of the man who had been pinned down…did not see whether it was a knife or some sharp object in the tantrik’s hand. The blood from the wound was then smeared on trishuls and sickles offered before the deity,” he said.
“I know they will identify me when they hear this story. If I am killed, PRP Granites and the government will be responsible for my death. But I want the world to know this story,” he said.
“When U Sagayam was the district collector of Madurai, I sent him a letter, without revealing my address, on the incident. But he was soon transferred. When Anshul Mishra took charge after him, he noted my old complaint in the file and called me — the letter had my phone number. When he asked me to meet him, I said I would only believe him if he sent his officials to my home. Within a day or two, he sent a team of officials, including a tehsildar, to escort me to his office,” he said.
“Mishra warned me not to tell the driver about the details of my complaint. In his chamber, he shot a video of me narrating the story on his cellphone and took my statement. But there was no action, as he was also transferred soon after,” he said.
When contacted, Mishra, who is now posted with the Union Finance Ministry, said he remembered the man and his complaint. “During the brief period that I was there, there were several reports of human sacrifices in media. But nobody was willing to file a complaint. In this case, I don’t remember whether he gave us a written complaint. Had he given it, it would have been sent to the concerned police jurisdiction for probe,” he said.
The link of this “witness” with PRP Granites dates back to 1993, when he reportedly joined the company as a lorry driver. “I worked there till 1997,” he said. After he left the company, he joined as the trustee of a local temple, Veerakaliamman Koil, next to a PRP quarry near Keelavalavu. “The quarrying work had started impacting the temple structure, causing huge cracks. I reported the matter to the authorities. The result was my immediate removal from the post,” he said. Later, he said, his land was purchased by PRP Granites. He alleged that he didn’t get any money, although his brothers and a local politician who struck the deal were paid.
“After they found out that I had been complaining to various authorities, their goons attacked me with sickles. It was in September 2001… I was bedridden for the next six months. As I had already lost my land and my wife, who left me out of fear after the attack, I left the village and went to Karaikudi. I was contacted there to settle the land deal and to shift the local deity,” he said.
Dismissing the allegation, V R Manoharan, senior lawyer for PRP Granites, said several deities had been shifted. “Now local people are coming up with new theories to blackmail us,” he said.