Villagers claim he was murdered by illegal sand miners

A body was unearthed from under a mound of sand on Monday night. The deceased was identified as 55-year-old K. Jayaprakash of Chittamanaickenpatti, a farmer.

While scores of villagers staged a road roko for nearly two hours claiming that the farmer was murdered by illegal sand miners on private patta land, Superintendent of Police S. Maheswaran suspected that Jayaprakash could have fallen into a sand pit by accident.

Stating that there was no organised sand smuggling in the area, he said local people had been quarrying underneath the hard top layer soil to scoop out sand. After his fall, the sand could have buried him, the SP said.

"A case of suspicious death has been registered. We have formed special teams to investigate the case," Mr. Maheswaran said.

The body of Jayaprakash was buried at the village on Tuesday evening following a post-mortem conducted at the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. Relatives of the deceased claimed that Jayaprakash had clashed with sand smugglers over illegal quarrying near his farm.

"He had warned them the day before yesterday. He went to the farm on Monday, but did not return. We searched for him. A few metres away, at the spot where his bicycle was found, we saw his hand protruding from a mound of sand. We pulled his body out," said P. Suryakumar, a youth.

The body had injuries on the forehead, left ear and the back of the head, said M. Murugan, another relative.

The relatives questioned the police action of sending the body all the way to Madurai for post-mortem, though there were two Government Hospitals close by in Sivakasi and Virudhunagar. They claimed that it was a murder and wanted the police to book the sand mafia” immediately.

The villagers were sore with officials at the Government Rajaji Hospital as they did not take the body for post-mortem till 11 a.m., though it was brought to the hospital at around 3 a.m.

"The body started bloating. Only after we tried to take it back to Virudhunagar did the police and officials act," Mr. Murugan said.

Illegal sand mining rampant

Police sources said that illegal sand mining was rampant at Chittamanaickenpatti with tractors and trucks from nearby villages of Mettukudi, Chokkalingapuram, Gangakulam and Kalayarkurichi operating without hindrance from the police and revenue officials.

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