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Tuesday , January 1 , 2013
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Seal on garden cannibalism

Jorhat, Dec. 31: Police today said eight persons had been arrested in the gruesome murder of Mridul Kumar Bhattacharjee, owner of Konapathar tea estate in Tinsukia district, and his wife Reeta. One of them also disclosed that the perpetrators had stooped to cannibalism.

Santosh Dhan, 24, who was arrested yesterday, is a casual labourer at the adjoining Redeemer garden and had been sacked by Bhattacharjee a few years back. He was produced before a court in Tinsukia this afternoon and placed in police custody for seven days.

The other seven, arrested this evening after they surrendered to the police, are from Konapathar. They are Abhiram Mura, Jiten Mura, Samra Mura, Enem Mura, Samel Mura, Maneshwar Mura and Boga Bhumij.

Tinsukia superintendent of police P.P. Singh told The Telegraph that investigations have revealed that Dhan, along with 14 others, all of whom have been identified, had plotted to eliminate Bhattacharjee. Ten of the 15 are from Redeemer and had earlier been dismissed by Bhattacharjee. The other five, who are still with Konapathar, grew angry when he sacked some of their immediate family members. “They perceived this as an act of injustice and had sworn revenge,” Singh said, adding that the police were looking for the accused.

The group, which had planned to use any protest by workers against Bhattacharjee to execute their plan, had sensed the general resentment among labourers. “Their opportunity came on December 26, after the labourers at Konapathar decided to confront Bhattacharjee about the arrest of two labourers, Ajit and Suraj, from the labour lines,” Singh said.

Dhan, Singh said, has admitted before the police that the couple were killed in the afternoon. The accused told interrogators that the group first hacked Bhattacharjee and a few among them even consumed his blood and flesh. Denying his involvement in cannibalism, Dhan named Boga Karmakar as one of those who consumed Bhattacharjee’s flesh. They then set the bungalow on fire.

“We have another person among the protesters who has turned approver and has given a statement under Section 164 CrPC as a witness to the barbaric act before a judicial magistrate yesterday,” Singh said. But he did not disclose the person’s identity, saying only that he was a worker and resident of Konapathar. The SP said the ghastly act was only limited to the planter as the body of his wife was found intact.

The police also tracked down the godown mohori (supervisor), Pranjal Hazarika, who had witnessed petrol being brought from the garden godown to set fire to the bungalow, to his home in Mariani in Jorhat district. They brought him to Tinsukia yesterday and recorded his statement.

Singh said the police were looking into other angles as well, including the “influence of Maoists or any third party” in the crime.

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