A special branch constable was brutally murdered by the sand mafia near Nanguneri in Tirunelveli district in the early hours of Monday after he tried to arrest them when they were illegally lifting sand from the Nambiyar riverbed.
The police said the constable Jagadish Durai, 33, after being alerted by an informer about sand mining at Pondicherry, a small hamlet on the Nambiyar riverbed, in the early hours of Monday, went to the spot on his two-wheeler.
When the sand miners tried to escape with the quarried sand in a tractor, the young constable chased them for about a kilometre, police said.
After the axle of the tractor snapped and the sand-laden vehicle came to a halt, Durai is said to have asked the trio to surrender. However, they attacked him with iron rods and crowbars. Having sustained grievous head injuries, he died on the spot.
The matter came to light only in the morning after efforts to contact Durai over the phone went in vain. As the police searched for him, they found his body lying in a secluded area near Pondicherry.
Superintendent of Police P. Ve. Arunshakthikumar who visited the spot, said all the culprits would be arrested soon as the police had already detained two of the three murderers — Muruga Perumal and Krishnan from Kakkan Nagar under the Vijayanarayanam police station limits — for interrogation. The police have also picked up tractor owner Subramanian and Murugan’s father Madasamy for inquiry. Five special teams have been dispatched to arrest Murugan of the same area, who allegedly heads the sand mafia in the region.
Sources in the police said the miners, who were actively operating along the Nambiyaru riverbed for the past several years with political and community backing, were facing a lot of pressure as Durai’s information to his higher-ups compelled the sand miners’ ‘friends’ in the Nanguneri police sub-division to act against illegal quarrying. “Agitated over this, the miners, possibly on the instructions of their friends in the police, might have murdered Durai,” the sources said.
Rampant sand mining along the Nambiyaru river bed came to a halt in 2003 after the then MLA of Radhapuram M. Appavu approached the Madras High Court.
“Following the legal impediment, the police allow sand mining in the areas under Valliyoor, Thisaiyanvilai, Vijayanarayanam and Koodankulam police station limits. Now, an upright constable has been hunted down by the illicit sand miners, who have already murdered a few more in this region for resisting the illegal sand quarrying,” Mr. Appavu alleged.
According to him, Dhas of Kannanallur in 2000, Kumar of Mittadharkulam in 2012, Chellappa of Karunkulam in 2017 and Viyagappan of Perunkulam in April 2018 had been run over by vehicles and cases of accidents were subsequently registered to bury those “murders.”