MYSURU/CHAMARAJANAGAR: In a worst ever tragedy reported in the recent past in Chamarajanagar, 15 people have died so far and over 100 people including children are still undergoing treatment after consuming prasadam allegedly laced with pesticide served at Kichugut Maramma temple at Suluvadi in Chamarajanagar district, recently. On that ill-fated day, December 14, alone, 11 devotees died, while three more died within three days of the incident, after consuming 'tomato bhath' and 'panchamrita'. The very incident has shook not just the devout-minded lot living in the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states, where the temple is located, but also the authorities concerned who were till then allegedly blind and deaf towards the internal bickerings at the same temple trust to lord over the increasing revenue, that is suspected to have taken its turn for worse eventually with the spiking of prasadam.
Those dead are as follows- Preethan, seven years from Bidarahalli, Anita, 12, from Suluvadi, Papanna, 70, M G Doddi, Rachaiah, 58, Tomiyar Palya, Saktivelu, Vaddaradoddi, Shantharaju, 30, Bidarahalli, Gopiyamma, 40, Bidarahalli, Annayappa, M M Hills, Shivu, 30, Bidarahalli, Krishna Nayaka, 40 and his wife Milli Bai, 38, of Kote Pode, Dodda Madaiah, Tulasikere, Mageshwari, 35 and Salamma, 40 both from M G Doddi.
While the majority of 11 devotees succumbed several hours after the incident, the remaining died in the later days, thus keeping the relatives of other victims on tenterhooks. The devotees who fell ill have been undergoing treatment at 15 different hospitals in both Mysuru and Chamarajanagar districts, with majority of 101 admitted at 11 different hospitals in Mysuru alone including the good old K R Hospital, a government-owned facility. With the condition of three more still being critical, the death toll may go up further, feel the doctors who are treating them.
Meanwhile, in what may further corroborate the poisoning angle, investigators have received a forensic science laboratory (FSL) report, where it is confirmed that pesticide mixed prasadam had been consumed by the devotees that led to their death, IGP (Southern range) K V Sharat Chandra has told media. This was established with the traces of mono crotophos a chemical from the family of organo phosphorus found in the samples of viscera collected from the deceased persons during autopsy. While the report from central food technological research institute (CFTRI), where the samples of prasadam has been sent for testing is awaited still, it is mostly confirmed that pesticide was mixed with prasadam served to the devotees.
FIR against seven
On the other hand, the Ramapura police who have filed a first information report (FIR) against seven people in the case, majority of them the trustees and prominent others associated with the administration of the temple, have framed charges under section 304 of IPC booking them for culpable homicide not amounting to murder. While three people named in the FIR, Chinnappi the secretary of the trust, Mahadeva Swamy alias Madesha the manager and Poojari Mahadeva are being quizzed since the day of the incident, no arrests have been made so far, said Chamarajanagar SP Dharmendra Kumar Meena.
Most importantly, two prominent seers of Salur Mutt at M M Hills who have been associated with the temple- Guruswamy the main pontiff and Immadi Mahadeva Swamy the junior pontiff have also been questioned by the investigators, thus sending a clear signal that the sleuths are sparing nobody to get into the skin of the case. While Guruswamy had taken part in the foundation laying ceremony to build a gopura (tower) and compound wall on the day of the incident, Mahadeva Swamy had stayed away from the same. Guruswamy who though took part in the rituals, had returned without taking prasadam. On the other hand, though Mahadeva Swamy was conspicuous by his absence despite heading the temple trust as its president, came under radar when Lokesh the son of prime accused Chinnappi had accused him for stage managing the incident, as he was not in good terms with his father Chinnappi. However, the seer (Mahadeva Swamy) has refuted all the allegations, when the investigators questioned him in this regard.