Howrah, June 30: Rs 501 and 21 saris — lucrative enough for two brothers to deny their aged mother a funeral.
Dhiraj and Prithviraj Banerjee, both local priests, hid the body of 85-year-old Neela, who died on Saturday, in a trunk under a cot in their decrepit house for four days before the stench gave them away.
The reason behind the inhuman act lay in a puja the siblings were contracted to perform in the house of a rich neighbour tomorrow. They stood to earn Rs 501 and 21 saris.
The duo feared they would lose the gifts if the neighbour came to know they were in mourning. A priest loses the right to perform a puja for 10 to 15 days if a parent or a close relative dies.
“For the poverty stricken brothers, the puja contract was very important. It meant food for a few days,” said a neighbour.
The deceit has cost the brothers dear. Both have been arrested and a case of unnatural death started after the recovery of the body. “The woman, we think, died naturally of a massive heart attack. But we can confirm it only after the post-mortem report comes,” said a police official of Domjur police station.
The body was recovered this morning after neighbours, their suspicions raised by a stench emanating from the Banerjees’ house, called in the police.
“After we forcefully entered their house, we found that the stench was coming from a trunk on which the “narayanshila” or a small idol of Lord Vishnu was kept,” said Nemai Sarkar, a neighbour. They called the police after the brothers refused to disclose the truth and tried to stop them from entering the house.
Inquiries revealed that when the neighbours asked about Neela, her sons refused to say anything and argued that the smell was coming from a nearby area where a cat had died. “We didn’t believe them and asked about their mother as we could not see her for the last few days,” said another neighbour, Shasti Sapui.
“It is a fact that they are poor but how is it possible that they tried to suppress their mother’s death only for a few bucks'” said another, echoing the dismay of the others who had gathered to find out what had happened.
While interrogating Dhiraj and Prithviraj, police learnt that Neela had died on Saturday night around 11 pm in her bed.
Superintendent of police Mihir Kumar Bhattacharya said: “The investigation has started and we are waiting for the post-mortem report to know what actually had happened with her.”