Its been two and a half months since seven-year-old Lalita Tati went missing from her village in Chhattisgarhs Bijapur district. Six days later,the childs parents found her decomposed,mutilated body,with nearly all organs missing. Amid talk of grisly local custom in this impoverished tribal area,police have arrested two men who they allege killed Lalita to propitiate a bloodthirsty female deity.
Lalita went missing on October 21. Her father,Budhram Tati,discovered her body on October 27. The autopsy report said cause of death cannot be ascertained as the body parts were eaten away by maggots. Nearly all of Lalitas organs,including the liver,were missing,the report said.
The Bijapur police initially suspected a rape-murder,but last week arrested Sukku Padam,a resident of Jailwara village where Lalita lived with her parents,and Ignesh Kujur of Toornar village. They have confessed that they cut her body and offered her liver to the goddess to ensure a good harvest, superintendent of police R N Dash said.
The police have sent samples from Lalitas body to the forensic science laboratory in Raipur.
Local councillor Vella Ram,who is Tatis neighbour in Jailwara,a village that came into existence some years ago to house tribals displaced by Naxalite violence,especially after the Salwa Judum rising,argued that Sukku would have had no reason to kill Lalita.
Sukku is not a farmer,just a poor daily labourer. How can he sacrifice someone for a harvest? The place where the body was found is around 15 km from the temple named by the police.
Ignesh Kujurs son,Anil,said they were Christian and did not believe in sacrifices. Lalitas cousin Narayan too said human sacrifice was not heard of in the community. Several local people alleged the police had forced a confession out of Sukku and Ignesh.
Dash said the fact of Ignesh being Christian established nothing. Many of them worship local deities jo kisi khaas tribe ka khoon peeti hain. Sukku is a priest of the same deitys temple at Kadenar. The duo told us that their goddess wanted the blood of the Agriya tribe,to which Lalita belonged.
The murder weapon has been recovered,the SP said. Lalita was seven years old. Tribals often sacrifice children whose ages are in odd numbers,like 7,9,11. He said money had been found at the feet and head of the body,indicating that two people had offered the sacrifice.
Lalitas father Budhram alleged that police had locked him up for 11 days. They tortured me,wanted me to admit that I had either raped or killed or sacrificed my daughter, he said.
Dash denied the charge: Tribals here often sell their children. We had suspicions,so we interrogated Budhram.