A tragic and horrifying case of alleged poisoning shook Chamarajanagar on Friday evening after the prasadam at the temple was poisoned. Tens of people have been hospitalised and the death count has risen to 11.
According to the Deputy Commissioner of Chamarajanagar district, BB Kaveri, Shantharaju (42), Gopiyamma (40), Annaiappa (80), Anitha (12), Doddamaraiah (60), Papanna (50), Rachaiah, (65) Sathivelu (28), Krihna Naik, Anil and Preetham are the deceased persons.
"Of the 11 people, three of them died in Kamagere hospital, three others in Kollegal, three in Mysuru, one each in Voddaradoddi and Tulasikere," Deputy Commissioner Kaveri added.
Currently, 93 other people, who had also consumed the pulav prasadam at the temple are currently undergoing treatment at various government and private hospitals in Chamarajanagar and Mysuru.
"There are 16 patients in JSS Hospital, 13 in Apollo, 11 in Kaveri hospital, six in Gopala Gowda Hospital, five in Colombia Asia, 11 in Sayog Hospital, 30 in KR Hospital and one in Banavi hospital," she added.
Of the 93 patients, 29 are said to be in a critical condition and are currently on the ventilator. "We are trying to ensure that all victims get the best possible help. Their condition is being monitored continuously," she said.
Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy visited all the hospitals to check up on the victims. The CM has announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for the families of the deceased victims.
"The victims' health is very important, I have instructed the health officials to take them to private hospitals and ensure that they have the best possible care. The police are investigating the matter," he said.
According to district level officials, a temple's gopura was being inaugurated and that is why so many people had gathered at the Kicchu Maramma Temple in Sulwadi. After the ceremony was completed, the devotees were given pulav as prasadam. The DHO suspects that the rice was poisoned, the official said. A sample has been sent to Forensic Science Laboratory in Bengaluru for testing.
IGP Southern Range Sharath Chandra confirmed to TNM that two people-- Gowdruchinnatti, a member of the temple's administration, and manager Maadesh have been taken into custody for questioning.
Speaking to TNM, Gowdrucinnatti's son Lokesh said that the pulav was not meant to be served as prasadam but was meant for the members of temple's administration. "Initially, we had got a smaller quantity of pulav. We had prepared it for it to be consumed after the puja since we were not to eat anything before that. When the devotees came and told us that they were feeling hungry, we gave them a little bit. We decided to give the pulav to those who came. It was not meant as prasadam," Lokesh claims.
Investigators say that the temple's trustees and the members of the village were not on good terms due to a dispute about the ownership of the village. Upon questioning Lokesh, the long-standing dispute, police say, could have been the reason why the food was poisoned
"Initially, the temple was being managed by people from Tamil Nadu. There was no gopura or even a proper structure above the sanctum sanctorum. It was when my father took over the day to day management that the temple was renovated. This was many years ago. The problem is that the people of the village consider this temple as theirs. We decided to fight for the temple. In an incident which had occurred a few months ago, the people in the village had beaten up one of the trustees from Tamil Nadu. There were also many differences between the trustees and my father. The pulav was meant for my family members and we only shared it with people who asked us. At one point, people assumed it was prasadam and queued up for it. We were just giving them the food," Lokesh claims.