Recovery of skeletons in Chhapra: Police probing international link
A day after the recovery of 50 human skeletons from a train at the Chapra junction in Bihar’s Saran district, the government railway police (GRP) administration in Muzaffarpur on Wednesday rushed separate teams of officials to Balia in Uttar Pradesh and Siliguri in West Bengal, to probe possible cross-border smuggling across international boundaries of the skeletons.
Muzaffarpur superintendent of railway police(SRP), SK Singh said that teams were dispatched to Balia, where the consignment of 16 human skulls and 34 skeletal remains was obtained, and to Siliguri where they were to be delivered, on the basis of inputs provided by the man arrested with the skeletons.
The involvement of skeleton smugglers from neighbouring countries could not be ruled out because Nepal and Bhutan currencies had been found with the arrested man, identified as Sanjay Prasad, Singh said. The police also confiscated ATM cards, two identity cards, and SIM cards with Nepal phone numbers from Prasad.
Prasad, who had boarded the Balia-Sealdah Express with the skeletons was arrested at Chapra junction on Tuesday. GRP men said that the skeletons had been both collected from cremation grounds and exhumed from various graveyards in Balia. Based on Prasad’s confession, the skeletons were reportedly being smuggled to Bhutan via Bihar and Siliguri in West Bengal and the entire operation was being monitored by a Nepal-based racketeer. .
.This was not the first such gory find. Singh said that the GRP had on October 19 seized some skulls found in a bag at Muzarrafpur junction too. “The GRP has launched an investigation to bust the network of skeleton smugglers,” the SRP said.
Meanwhile, an official, requesting anonymity, said human skeletons were exported to China and Bhutan, where they were used for manufacturing aphrodisiacs. The skeletons were also in demand among medical students in these countries, he added.
He said many poor families living in and round cremation grounds and graveyards in Bihar, UP, Jharkhand and West Bengal, eked out their livelihood by collecting skulls and bones and selling them to smugglers.
“The skeletal remains are first cleaned with hydrogen peroxide to remove the foul smell and then divided into different categories,” the official said.
“A skull can be bought from a graveyard for Rs 1,000 to Rs 2000 and a bone for Rs 500 to Rs 800. They are sold to smugglers for Rs 10,000 -Rs 20,000 and carried into Siliguri and other cities and finally across international borders. Once there, the prices range between Rs 40000 and Rs 50000,” he said.
In 2004, 1,000 human skulls were seized from the banks of Falgu river in Gaya. In 2007, three people were arrested with 100 human bones and 27 human skulls from a Siliguri-bound passenger bus at Dighwara in the Saran district. Two years later, 67 human skulls and bones were seized again in Chapra and one person, identified as Kamal Sah, a resident of East Champaran in north Bihar, was arrested. Sah had revealed that he was involved in the illegal trade since about a decade.
A senior police officer in the state police headquarters said the export of human skeletons was banned in the 1980s. Still, the smuggling of human skulls and bones has carried on unabated, wth Siliguri being the key transit point for their export to Nepal, Bhutan and China, the officer said, requesting anonymity.
Black magic too, reportedly plays a role. Festivals like Dusshehra saw a macabre rise in the demand for human skeletons, as occulists perform black magic and tantric rituals with them, the official disclosed.