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More to food poisoning in Karnataka than first met the eye

Food poisoning. Credit: 123rfAuthorities have said the deadly mass poisoning of food at a temple in Karnataka last week was not the result of a lapse in sanitation. Rather, it was the result of something much more sinister.

Police in the Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka have booked four people on suspicion of deliberately poisoning prasada offered to worshippers during a service at a Hindu temple near Mysore. Fifteen people lost their lives in the incident which hospitalised more than 130 worshippers, of whom 52 remain in hospital. 53 patients who had been affected by the poisoning were discharged earlier in the week.

The poisoning was initially blamed on pesticides. However, the Inspector-General of Police for the district has said the poisoning was “a well-planned conspiracy” and “the fallout of an internal power struggle” between temple authorities and Immadi Mahadevaswamy, a 52-year-old sadhu and junior seer of the Mahadeshwara Hill Saluru Mutt. 

Mahadevaswamy was one of the four arrested, along with his wife; Madesh, the manager of the Kichchugutti Maramma temple where the poisoning took place; and Doddiah, a 38-year-old priest from a nearby village. The four conspired to mix insecticide into the rice pulav used to make the prasada.

The four arrestees have confessed to the crime, The Hindu reports. Police have booked them on charges of murder, attempted murder and criminal conspiracy, among others.

Temple office bearers reportedly suspected the sadhu of embezzling temple revenues. To avert this, they established a trust to monitor the temple’s income to the ire of the sadhu. The food poisoning was intended to undermine the temple’s office bearers. However, the scheme was uncovered when Doddiah claimed to have been poisoned but blood tests found no traces of the insecticide used.

The incident has prompted the Karnataka state government to require the installation of security cameras in kitchens at all places of worship in the state to prevent similar tragedies in future. Families of the deceased are being awarded Rs 5 lakh by the state government as compensation for their loss.

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