It was in 2004 that lorry driver Sevarkodiyan first approached the local police in Madurai with a sensational complaint against India’s largest granite exporters PRP granites and his employer. Employed as a driver to transport materials to and from quarries in and around Madurai district, Sevarkodiyan claimed that quarry operators were making human sacrifices and he had witnessed one in 1999.
Eleven years after Sevarkodiyan first complained, the allegations of human sacrifice are actually being probed by U Sagayam, the Legal Commissioner appointed by the Madras High Court to probe various types of mining activities in the state.
On Friday Sagayam and his team reached the banks of the Manimuthar River at E. Malampatti village in Melur taluk of Madurai to exhume bodies that were suspected to have been buried at a particular spot.
“In 1999, when I was working as a lorry driver for the quarries, we were told to pick up mentally unsound or mentally challenged people that we saw on the roads. We were told that the quarry operators were running humanitarian services. Once I brought a dozen mentally unsound people (11 men and one woman) from Pupupettai to Madurai. After a few months, I witnessed two of them being buried at a spot, their throats were slit,” Sevarkodiyan told the media.
Though Sevarkodiyan in his complaint says he saw only two bodies being buried, though he believes all 12 were killed.
Sagayam’s decision to investigate these allegations was followed by much drama with the police department allegedly saying that they would not be able to arrange for materials, until a formal complaint was lodged.
This prompted the IAS officer – considered Tamil Nadu’s Ashok Khemka with 24 transfers in 23 years of service – to spend the night with his team at the spot, which barely had any light.
The exhumation started in the morning and as the team dug to a depth of around five feet, fragments of bone were found. Although it will take forensic examination to establish whether these were indeed human bones and how old they were, the find has created much commotion in Tamil Nadu.
According to Sevarkodiyan, the bodies were buried using an earthmover and therefore the team in charge of exhumation will have to dig deep to ascertain if bones are indeed buried there.
Some villagers though told the media that the spot was being used as a burial ground by the villagers for the past few years.
PRP Granites, owned by industrialist PR Palanisamy, denied all charges and accused Sagayam of trying to create a diversion. “Sevarkodiyan already faces four cases filed that have been filed against him. Sagayam has been investigating about illegal mining for one year and Sevarkodiyan had approached him before itself. The reason that Sagayam has chosen to investigate now is to delay the report that he has to submit to the Madras High Court,” said PRP Granites lawyer Manoharan.
“Sevarkodiyan did approach Mr Sagayam a few months ago during one of the public hearings, but we cannot simply investigate till we do primary investigation and ascertain that the complaint could be genuine,” a member of Sagayam’s team told TNM.