The body of a 65-year-old priest was founding hanging at the Ram Janki temple in Unchahar area of Rae Bareli Wednesday morning. While police said a preliminary probe suggests suicide, local residents alleged he was murdered over an old land dispute.
Police said the deceased, Baba Prem Das, was under “severe stress” after a non-bailable warrant had been issued by a local court against him in connection with a rape case lodged in 2016. Police had found the allegations false and expunged the case, but court took cognisance of the matter after the victim objected to the way the probe was conducted.
Local residents, however, said Das was killed by the patron of a college — built on land that allegedly belongs to the temple trust — and his associates. A case was lodged against four persons on charges of murder and causing disappearance of evidence. Those named in the FIR include the patron of Panchsheel Mahavidyalaya college, B N Maurya, and his associates Sanjeev Maurya, Baba Ram Swarup and Amrit Lal.
“At around 6 am, we were informed that the body of Baba Prem Das was found hanging from the balcony of the temple. Locals did not let us take the body. They were demanding senior officials to assure proper action. However, after the intervention of the DM and SP, the body was brought down and sent for postmortem,” said Dhananjay Singh, SHO of Unchahar police station.
“Baba’s spectacles were on his eyes, slippers were on his feet and there was no sign of resistance. Other than ligature marks around the neck, there is no other injury mark on the body,” he added.
Circle officer (CO) of Dalmau area, Vineet Singh, said there had been a dispute between the temple trust and B N Maurya over the ownership of 11 bigha of land.
“Maurya had built a degree college on the land about 20 years ago and Baba’s mentor — who was the head priest and head of the trust then — had claimed ownership of the land and filed a case in court. He, however, was murdered about six years ago. Baba was pursuing the case since the murder and the court had recently given a decision in Baba’s favour,” said Singh.