Beldaur (Bihar), March 30: Chowkidar Paltu Paswan last week began digging a plot he had bought recently at Rohiam village, about 5 km from this block in Khagaria district, with dreams of a house and a secure future.
Paswan is now devastated. “This must have been a cursed place. I have to think again about building a house here. I cannot allow 50 ghosts to breathe down my neck,” he said.
In his quest for a house that now may never be, Paswan seems to have dug up the ghosts of an ancient past. Soon after six labourers began digging the plot, one of them stumbled on a skull. They stopped work immediately and shrank back in fear.
A confused Paswan informed the police. Around 11 am on Thursday, the force arrived and supervised further digging at the spot. His face contorted with fear, Paswan could only mumble “Hey Ram” as skulls began tumbling out of a tunnel-like gap — 45 in all.
As rumours and legends swirled, tension soared. Hundreds of people from neighbouring villages and experts of all hues converged on Paswan’s plot.
This morning, another five skulls were recovered. Parts of skeletons have also been found in the plot measuring about 10 to 14 sq metres. At a depth of about nine feet, shards of pottery were also found, police said.
“We believe the 50 skulls recovered so far from Rohiam village could at least be 200 years old. There have been no recent massacres in the area. We spoke to almost all the people of the village who would be 90 years old,” said Ajit Joy, superintendent of police, Khagaria.
After the initial shock, the police conferred with elders of the area and the experts and ruled out chances of a tantrik having dumped the skulls, as they looked old.
Joy said that after interrogating the residents, he convinced villagers of the various historical reasons that could have led to the amassing of human remains there. Now there is no tension in the area, he said.
“For confirmation of their age, we are sending the skulls to Patna for forensic tests,” the police superintendent said. The Patna circle of the Archaeological Survey of India has been urged to arrange for carbon-dating of the relics, the officer added.
Shailendra Kumar, a former professor and archaeologist, has reached the spot with a five-member team. “I believe the skulls date back to the post-Mughal period and might have been buried here,” he said.
Ravidas Rai, a professor of history, echoed Kumar. He believes this might have been a mass grave. “But this can only be ascertained after a lot of research,” he said. “The guess is on the post-Mughal period as it was at that time that rival groups fought pitched battles and there were reports of mass burials,” he added.
Kumar held a meeting on Thursday with Joy and the district magistrate and requested them to take care of the relics. His team is expected to return here soon for an extended investigation.
The district administration has directed the police to excavate some areas adjacent to Paswan’s plot to find out whether there are any more skulls. A posse of policemen has been posted in the area to help the excavation progress smoothly.