The family of the two brothers who were hacked to death near Mathur on Saturday had alleged that they had been persecuted by the sand mafia for more than two years.
The family of P. Durairaj (56), the village head (nattamai) of Sengalakudi, had been fighting illegal sand mining for the past few years. Although Mr. Durairaj had four sons, his youngest son Rajesh (24) was most active in his battle against the sand mafia.
Both Mr. Durairaj and Rajesh braved threats from the accused G. Rajendran and his accomplices who were allegedly involved in mining sand from the ‘kattar’ (jungle stream). The three accused were relatives of the victims and reside in the same village.
Mr. Durairaj suspected that Rajesh was drawn into a well-planned trap as he received a “tip-off” over his mobile phone that some persons were engaged in mining sand on Friday night. Rajesh rushed to the spot immediately brushing aside the advice of his parents.
Speaking to The Hindu Mr. Durairaj said he and his wife had advised Rajesh against going to the spot suspecting it could be a trap. “But he left home ignoring our word only to lose his life along with his brother,” said Mr. Durairaj.
The parents still did not have a clue on how their eldest son Karthick (30), a lorry driver in Tiruchi, joined his younger brother. Karthick was hacked to death along with Rajesh on the road leading to the village from Tiruchi-Pudukottai National Highway in the early hours of Saturday.
Mr. Durairaj said, as the village head, he had raised objections to Rajendran’s action of mining sand from a village tank and the jungle stream about two years ago. “They had attempted to bump me and my son Rajesh off on a couple of occasions previously. A few months ago, Rajesh was chased by some persons, but he managed to escape and got in touch with the police. We had sent petitions to the revenue, police, district authorities and even to the Chief Minister’s Cell. There was not much action. Recently, following a petition from my son to the district Superintendent of Police, a local police officer called up Rajendran to warn him,” he said. But this apparently had not deterred the mafia.
Later on Saturday, Rajendran surrendered before a Judicial Magistrate court in Madurai. The Pudukottai police arrested his younger brother Muthazhagu, while the third accused Natarajan is yet to be arrested.
Although sand mining prima facie is suspected to be the prime motive behind the double murder as the victims had been informing the authorities, the police were also looking into other motives including previous enmity owing to property dispute. Mr. Durairaj conceded that there had been a dispute among the relatives over division of property some years ago.
The police suspected that the killers might have kept close tabs on the movements of the brothers before striking at the opportune moment. The police sources said that Rajesh was the target of the killers as it was apparently he who had been informing the authorities on sand mining. As Karthik was also present at the scene, the killers did not spare him too.
C. Manoharan, District Collector, said the brothers had not submitted any petition about the illicit sand quarrying. Previous enmity had been brewing between the rival groups of villagers for the past few years over various issues including the election to the panchayat union. None of the brothers had submitted any petition to the district administration over the illegal quarrying of sand in the village, he maintained.