Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, after visiting the hospital in Mysuru, announced an initial compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the deceased. The government will also bear the treatment charges, he said.
Petty politics between two groups over building a tower for a local deity’s temple in Chamarajanagar district unleashed a macabre tale of death, killing so far 12 devotees by poisoning the temple ‘prasada’.
Also over 70 devotees fell ill and were admitted to various hospitals in multiple locations in both Chamarajanagar and Mysuru districts.
What was initially believed to have been a simple case of food poisoning, turned out to be shocking instance of sabotage with the Chamarajanagar police detaining two villagers – Chennappa, a member of the local village gram panchayat, and Madesha – for allegedly poisoning the ‘prasada’ prepared at the temple to be distributed among devotees. The police have sent samples to food labs for further tests.
While the health department officials have confirmed the incident as a case of poisoning, it is yet to be established whether the poison was actually mixed in the ‘prasada’ offered at the Kitchukattu Maramma temple in Sulvadi village, Hanur taluk.
According to the sources in Hanur, a religious gathering was held at Sulwadi village on account of building a Gopuram for the local deity Kichhukatti Maramma.
As part of the foundation stone laying ceremony, special prayers and rituals were organized. “Hundreds of devotees from adjoining villages and taluks had descended on the village. After the function, all the devotees were made to sit in line and served Ricebath prepared at the temple,” Madesha, a resident of the neighbouring village said.
A few minutes later several devotees not only vomited but also complained of diarrhea. When the complaints rose alarmingly and after a few of the devotees fell unconscious, villagers alerted the 108 ambulance service.
Attendants of 108 told media that many devotees were rushed to the nearby Holy Cross hospital at Kamagere in Kollegal taluk, while a few others were taken to various nursing homes in Kollegal town.
Kumaraswamy, who visited K R Hospital in Mysuru, said as per the reports, nine persons have died. CM directed the officials to shift all the patients to Mysuru from Chamarajanagar. He also said that the police have already arrested two in the case and police are directed to take strict action. “We will not spare anyone who involved in the case,” he said.
A senior district official who is attending to patients at Kollegal revealed that six people have reportedly died in the incident. “A few of the deceased devotees were identified as Gopiamma (35), Shanta (20), Papanna (50). Two patients died at Kamagere, two another at Kollegal and a kid in Chamarajanagar hospitals,” the official revealed.
Health department officials assisted by local doctors have called upon all the practicing doctors in Kollegal town and offered treatment to patients. “Majority of the patients are unconscious and finding it difficult to breathe. As many as 10 people are put on ventilators and there is a shortage of ventilators. Serious ill patients are sent to Mysuru for further treatment,” one of the doctors told .
Chamarajanagar Deputy Commissioner B B Kaveri told reporters that it is a suspected case of food poisoning. “It is suspected that the prasada was laced with poison. A team would be constituted to conduct a probe. The samples of the prasada have already been sent to the lab. The exact reason would be ascertained only after receiving the reports.”
Laying a foundation stone for building a gopura for the local goddess, hundreds of ‘Om Shakti’ devotees from adjoining villages in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had gathered at Sulvadi village.
MP C S Puttaraju, who arrived at K R Hospital confirmed that a total of eight deaths reported. While six died in Hanur, two died in Mysuru, he said. “The inpatients are recovering and no need to panic.”
The deceased are Gopiamma, Shantha, Papanna, Anitha, Appannaiah, Kumar, Shivu, Krishnanayaka, Rachaiah, Doddamadaiah, Shaktivelu and Anil.
Thirty people are said to be critical and the death toll is expected to rise, according to the doctors.