Meghalaya, Assam initiate probe into death of 14 labourers



The Meghalaya and Assam governments on Wednesday launched separate probes into the mysterious death of 14 labourers in a Meghalaya village.

The incident was reported from Saipung village in East Jaintia Hills district. The labourers hail from Assam's Dhubri district.

The incident came to notice on Monday when contractor Victor Suja discovered that all his 14 workers were lying dead in their beds with blood and froth oozing out from their mouths, noses and ears.

"Our preliminary investigation indicates that the 14 workers died after they ate chutney made of wild fruits locally known as 'khuitur' on Sunday evening," Meghalaya Police chief Rajiv Metha told IANS.

"But in order to clear all doubts, we have instituted a high-level inquiry headed by Inspector General of Police A. Sunn to probe into all the angles that led to the death of these workers," Metha said.

In Guwahati, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi asked additional chief secretary S. Meora to probe the death of the labourers.

The Meghalaya Police chief said: "We have collected all evidence from where the bodies of these dead men were found and sent for chemical examination the 'khuitur' that was found in their kitchen and a portion of the same fruit crushed and mixed with onion and chilly."

Ruling out any foul play in the tragic incident, Metha said there was no evidence of this, but police were awaiting the autopsy report for ascertaining the cause of death.

"The symptoms noticed on the bodies of the deceased were similar to that of a case of food poisoning. The police found no external injury marks on their bodies," Metha said.

He also said doctors, who conducted the post mortem of the workers, have also collected their blood and viscera samples and sent it to the state forensic science laboratory for chemical analysis.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the labourers arrived in their villages on Wednesday but their family members have demanded a second autopsy as they refused to believe it to be a case of food poisoning.

"The family members have alleged some foul play and they insisted for a post-mortem to be carried out here. We are looking into the matter. We would be able to get more details after receiving the post-mortem report," said Mridulananda Sarma, superintendent of police in Assam's Dhubri district. - IANS