A shopkeeper was arrested by Assam Police on Saturday for allegedly selling spirit that is suspected to have caused the death of more than 150 people in Golaghat and Jorhat districts last week, officials said.
Sources said that Abdul Kasim (34) sold at least 70 litres of methanol — whose toxicity is extremely high in the human body — at around Rs 105 a litre.
“The person who supplied spirit to Kasim has also been arrested. We will soon arrest the person who supplied it to him,” a senior officer said. Investigation is on to find out where the suppliers obtained the toxic methanol.
Zeroing in on a network of spirit suppliers and distributors, the police have arrested at least 47 people across the two districts. Pushpraj Singh, SP Golaghat, said, “Kasim has been arrested, taking the number of arrests in Golaghat district to 37. Hunt is on for another main culprit.”
Police sources said that forensic scientists had verbally communicated that the contaminant was methanol. This raises the possibility that the liquor consumed was not the traditionally prepared molasses-based “sulai” but, as police say, “a mixture of spirit and water”. Methanol is used for various industrial purposes.
Meanwhile, district administration officials in Golaghat and Jorhat told The Indian Express that 37 children were orphaned in the hooch tragedy as both parents died after consuming the spurious liquor.
On Monday, The Indian Express had reported the case of Dipali Pujhar (11) and her brothers Chandan (3), Kundan (7) and Badal (9), whose parents Debaru and Sunita, both tea garden workers, died in the incident. There are several among the dead who belonged to one family.
“In Golaghat district, 32 children belonging to 11 families have become orphans in the hooch tragedy. We will take all measures, in collaboration with the social welfare department, to look after the children,” Golaghat DC Dhiren Hazarika told The Indian Express.
Sangita Borthakur, district social welfare officer of Jorhat, said that five children from at least three families have lost their parents. “The children are with their relatives. But we are keeping a watch so that they do not suffer in any way.”