Mur­der in the White House

A mur­der and a se­cu­rity breach at Jaya’s ex­clu­sive coun­try es­tate sparks a rash of ru­mours

India Today - - STATES - By Amar­nath K. Menon

Res­i­dents of Ko­danad in the Blue Moun­tains re­fer to it rev­er­en­tially as ‘White House’—the two-sto­ried man­sion on the lush 800 acre tea es­tate, with an elec­tric fence and 1,400 sur­veil­lance cam­eras, which was a home away from home for the late chief min­is­ter, J. Jay­alalithaa. In the ini­tial years, af­ter ac­quir­ing the prop­erty in 1992, she would come in a con­voy of cars. Later, he­li­pads helped cut travel time from Chen­nai to the re­treat.

She sel­dom met the vil­lagers, but Jaya en­deared her­self to them by mak­ing sure state re­sources were used to de­velop pub­lic util­i­ties in Ko­danad, which is 12 km from the near­est town, Ko­ta­giri, and 550 km from state capital Chen­nai. For them, with her pass­ing, the high se­cu­rity es­tate seemed even more re­mote, till a se­cu­rity guard at Gate No. 10 was found dead on April 24, his body hang­ing up­side down, feet tied to a tree. The sur­veil­lance cam­eras were sur­pris­ingly not work­ing, but the po­lice, in the next 12 hours, es­tab­lished that a group of men in two cars had, apart from killing Om Ba­hadur, in­jured Kr­ishna Ba­hadur, an­other of the 10 se­cu­rity


guards on the es­tate. Clues pro­vided by him and other cir­cum­stan­tial ev­i­dence helped the po­lice iden­tify some of the in­trud­ers.

What is baf­fling (a con­spir­acy ac­cord­ing to some) is the ex­tra­or­di­nary events that fol­lowed. On April 28, C. Kana­garaj, de­scribed by the po­lice as the first ac­cused in the mur­der, was killed, knocked down by a car while rid­ing a mo­tor­cy­cle near At­tur off the Salem-Ulun­durpet high­way. Barely nine hours later, at 5.30 am on April 29, the car of the sec­ond ac­cused, K.V. Sayan, who was trav­el­ling with his wife and five-yearold daugh­ter, rammed into a parked lorry at Kan­nadi on the Palakkad-Thris­sur road in Ker­ala. A crit­i­cally in­jured Sayan was moved to a Coim­bat­ore hos­pi­tal, where he is said to be re­cov­er­ing. Both were closely con­nected with the es­tate ad­min­is­tra­tion—Kana­garaj had been a trusted driver in Jay­alalithaa’s ser­vice since 2008, and Sayan, a car­pen­ter’s as­sis­tant.

The Nil­giris dis­trict po­lice have so far iden­ti­fied at least six of the es­ti­mated 10 in­trud­ers. The crim­i­nals re­port­edly took away Jaya’s wrist­watches as well as some arte­facts, in­clud­ing a crys­tal rhinoceros. “As the case is still be­ing in­ves­ti­gated, we can­not re­veal much more,” said Nil­giris SP Mu­rali Rambha. Some suit­cases were also found open, lead­ing to sus­pi­cion that the gang may have also taken away valu­ables and even doc­u­ments. DMK work­ing pres­i­dent M.K. Stalin says “the po­lice is obliged to in­ves­ti­gate what is miss­ing from the bun­ga­low”. Mean­while, the plot has thick­ened with Kana­garaj’s brother say­ing he was in­no­cent and that it was all “a po­lit­i­cal con­spir­acy”.

There are other sto­ries do­ing the rounds: that Jay­alalithaa had “stashes at sev­eral places”, in­clud­ing a farm­house in Siru­vathur on the old Ma­ha­balipu­ram road near Chen­nai, and that Sasikala is in the know. But that she is un­likely to com­plain, ap­pre­hen­sive that she might have to ex­plain the source.

PTI MUR­DER MOST FOUL An ac­cused in the Ko­danad case at the Ko­ta­giri po­lice sta­tion in Ooty

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