Four persons, including a boy, were arrested on Wednesday in connection with the murder of a farmer, K. Jayaprakash (55), who was found buried under a mound of sand at Chittamanaickenpatti near Sivakasi in Virudhunagar district on April 1.

Police said D. Athipathiraj (23) of P. Paraipatti, his cousin S. Muniyasamy (21), a minor boy and G. Lakshmanan (23) of Chittamanaickenpatti were arrested.

The farmer was allegedly hit by the handle of a hoe (spade-like tool) as he registered his protest when he found them involved in illegally quarrying sand from a patta land near his farm, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Sivakasi) V. Radhakrishnan said. As he was hit on his forehead, the farmer collapsed on the spot. Later, the accused pushed him into a trench from where sand had been scooped out and buried him.

The police were not sure whether Jayaprakash was buried alive or he was dead when they buried him.

The DSP said that Athipathiraj and Lakshmanan were in a drunken state. As darkness had set in, they could have failed to take notice of the hand protruding from the sand mound.

Relatives of the deceased and villagers, who went in search of Jayaprakash, found his body buried under the sand.

When the police registered a case of suspicious death, they protested, claiming that the farmer was murdered for having questioned illegal sand mining in the area a couple of days before he was found dead.

Led by panchayat president R. Tamilarasan, the villagers staged a road blockade demanding the arrest of the assailants. Mr. Tamilarasan said that sand smuggling was rampant in the area and only if the revenue and police officials took stern action against the illegal act, such untoward incidents could be prevented in future.

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