Dispute over ₹6 lakh led to gruesome murder of Jain seer in Karnataka; BJP MLA seeks CBI probe

The accused Narayana Basappa Mali and Hassan Dalayath cut the body into pieces and dumped them into an abandoned borewell, believing they would not be caught.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Jul 10, 2023 | 9:09 AM Updated Jul 10, 2023 | 9:09 AM

Murder accused Narayan Basappa Mali and Hassan Dalayath

A financial dispute led to the gruesome murder of a Jain seer in Karnataka’s Belagavi district, the police said after arresting two men, who allegedly killed the religious leader, chopped his body into more than nine pieces, and dumped them in an abandoned borewell.

Identifying the accused as building contractor Narayana Basappa Mali and his henchman Hassan Dalayath, investigators said the duo dumped the body in the well, believing that they would not be caught.

The Chikkodi police initiated a probe on Thursday, 6 July, after manager Basadi Bheemappa Ugare of the Hirekodi Jain Ashram lodged a complaint saying the head seer, Acharya Kamakumara Nandi Maharaj (58) of the Nandi Parvat Jain Ashram, had been missing since the previous night.

After Nandi Maharaj had gone missing, the Ashram’s trustee members and devotees launched a search and enquired about the seer. They were informed that Nandi Maharaj was last seen with Mali and Dalayath, both in their 30s.

The police interrogated them together and separately. Contradictions in their statements led the police to the seer’s mortal remains and the men’s arrest.

Investigators, who requested anonymity, said the seer was into an illegal money-lending business involving exorbitant interest rates.

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Motive and execution

Nandi Maharaj had given Mali ₹6 lakh for purchasing building materials for an under-construction 22-classroom school building. When the contractor failed to provide the materials, the seer demanded the money back, the police said.

Miffed over the demand, he decided to eliminate the seer. He roped in Dalayath, a tipper-lorry driver, who also ran errands for the contractor, to dispose of the body. Mali was confident that his “meticulous” plan would help them escape arrest since there would be no evidence.

After murdering the seer, they cut the body into pieces to fit a 30-foot borewell on Mali’s farm at Katakabhavi village, around 30 km from the Ashram. They also put soil over into the well to mask the stench.

However, their hopes of remaining undetected were shattered as the police cracked the case in four hours.

Mali was a resident of Katakabhavi village in Raibagh taluk, while Dalayath lived in Chikkodi town. Nandi Maharaj had been living in the Ashram for the past 15 years., the police said.

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Confirming the arrest of the duo, Belagavi Superintendent of Police (SP) Sanjeev Patil said the motive appeared to be related to financial matters.

“Narayan Basappa Mali had taken ₹6 lakh from the seer which he did not returned over a period of time. When the seer put pressure on him to return the money at the earliest, he decided to murder the seer. It was a planned murder,” Patil told South First.

Officers privy to the investigation said the interrogation of prime accused Mali revealed that the seer had been demanding an interest rate that was beyond his means. So he hatched a conspiracy to eliminate the seer, they said on the condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, a relative of the seer said he was given electric shock before the accused dismembered the body.

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10 hours to retrieve body

Though the police cracked the murder case soon enough, they took more than 10 long hours to retrieve the seer’s body parts. SP Patil and a team of officers camped at Katakabhavi. They dug up a portion of the land near the borewell to retrieve the body parts.

Vehicular traffic on the main road leading towards Katakabhavi village was affected during the operation.

“The body parts were found at a depth of 30 foot and soil was put over, a senior police officer said. “The body parts were sent for a post-mortem examination at a government hospital in Chikkodi after which the mortal remains were handed over to the Ashram,” he added.

The last rites of the seer were performed as per Jain traditions at Hirekodi village in Chikkodi taluk on Sunday.

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Demand for CBI probe

The BJP demanded a thorough investigation into the murder. Condemning the gruesome incident, BJP state chief Nalin Kumar Kateel on Sunday, 9 July, called for a thorough investigation covering all aspects of the crime.

He also demanded the state government provide security to monks. “The government should take this case seriously and ensure that the culprits are booked,” he said in a statement.

BJP spokesperson and MLC N Ravi Kumar appealed to the government to investigate the case properly as there were possibilities of the involvement of more people.

Meanwhile, BJP MLA, Belagavi South, Abhay Patil demanded a CBI probe into the crime.

Speaking to reporters, he said the police stated that the seer had been engaged in a money-lending business. “By saying so, the police are trying to bring a bad name to the Jain community,” he said.

“The investigation looks suspicious. We have no faith in the state government, “the MLA added.