Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 1:
Already under fire on a host of charges including land grab, sexual exploitation of women inmates, illegal accumulation of wealth and possession of unlicensed arms, arrested self-styled godman Sura Baba alias Surendra Mishra, head of Trahi Achyuta ashram at Jhiinti Sasan on the outskirts of the Odisha capital, is now in the dock on the most serious charge so far: murder. And three at that.
In a sensational revelation a day after commissionerate police arrested him and his two sons, Kanak TV has dug out facts about three long-buried cases that suggest three former inmates of the ashram could have been murdered at the instance of the Baba.
In the first of these three cases, Purna Chandra Jena, a former inmate of the ashram, told Kanak TV he was an eyewitness to the murder of former ashram inmate Pratap Mishra in 2003.
“He was called to the ashram on the pretext of meeting his guruma (teacher-mother). Once he reached there, he was taken behind the ashram building and mercilessly beaten up by goons with wooden clubs on the orders of Sura Baba. He was beaten up for over half an hour. I saw him with severe wounds on his body after his beating,” Jena said.
The eyewitness said he heard that Pratap was packed off to Brahmapur after being beaten up. “The next thing I heard about him was he had committed suicide,” he said.
Jena’s revelation suggests that the mysterious death of Pratap, which was sought to be passed off as suicide by ashram authorities and the police, may well have been a case of murder.
In his statement to Kanak TV today, Pramod Mishra, an auto-rickshaw driver of Kandhamal district and elder brother of Pratap, insisted that it was indeed a case of murder.
He said his youngest brother Pratap had gone to the Trahi Achyuta ashram at Jhiinti in 1997 where he was appointed as a staff by Sura Baba. He was one of the most faithful staff of the ashram.
“After serving at the ashram for six years, my brother had come home in 2003 and told me that Trilochan Mishra, the eldest son of Sura Baba, had assured him to provide a job in the Institute of Design and Technology run by him at plot no-A/118 at Sahid Nagar in Bhubaneswar. He also told me that Trilochan had asked him to bring Rs 80,000. With much difficulty, my elder brother managed to arrange the money and gave it to him. He was very happy and left the house. The very next day, I received a call that my youngest brother had committed suicide. It was impossible for me and my three brothers to believe Pramod had committed suicide as he had shown no sign of any desperation and he was physically fit and sound,” Pramod Mishra said.
Pramod said when he reached A/118 in Sahid Nagar, he found the body of his younger brother hanging from a ceiling fan, but his feet touching the floor. “There was no way it could have been a case of suicide,” he said accusing the police of hushing up the case at the behest of Sura Baba. “The police behaved like the pet dog of Sura Baba,” he said.
Pratap’s friend and confidante Pabitra Pradhan added a curious twist to the case saying the former had stayed with him for five days till the night before he was found dead.
“Five days before he was found dead, Pratap came to me with someone I knew and said he would stay with me for a few days before moving out since the ashram authorities had thrown him out. During these five days, he revealed that he had an affair with Sura Baba’s daughter and had been warned by him (Sura Baba) of dire consequences if he ever ventured anywhere close to the ashram again,” Pabitra told Kanak TV.
He said the night before Pratap was found dead under mysterious circumstances, four persons had come to his place and asked for him. ” It was past midnight. Pratap came out and asked them what brought them there. They said they had come to take him to the ashram to thrash out the issue through discussion. Pratap went along with them. The next morning, I got a call around 5-5.30 am saying he was dead. I rushed to Rajmahal Square and found his body lying by the side of the road. A lone home guard kept watch on the body,” Pabitra said.
The statements of Jena, Mishra and Pradhan contradicted each other and suggest that there could be more to the case than meets the eye. Jena claimed that Pratap was beaten up at about 11 am in the morning and then packed off to Brahmapur, while Pradhan said his body was found early in the morning. Pradhan said Pratap’s body was found near Rajmahal Square whereas Mishra said the body of his younger brother was found hanging at A/118 in Sahid Nagar. But the one possibility that can be safely ruled out on the basis of the three mutually contradictory depositions is that Pratap’s death was a case of suicide.
Jena also talked about the beating up of another youth named Kshirod, who too was found dead under mysterious circumstances later. “He was shoved into a room full of burning chilli powder and beaten up severely,” Jena told the channel. Responding to a question by the presenter, he, however, said he had no idea if it was a case of human sacrifice.
But family members of another youth named Biswajit Nayak had no doubt whatsoever that Nayak was a victim of human sacrifice practised in the ashram.
In a startling revelation, Nayak’s kin claimed that Nayak, an engineering student, had been to the ashram with the belief that Baba would fulfil his ambitions. However, after five days, Nayak’s body was recovered at Haripur Nuagan. The boy’s eyes had been gouged out and his body bore innumerable injury marks.