After probing 251 witnesses in the case of disappearance of environmental activist Mugilan, the CB-CID submitted a status report before the Madras High Court without many answers
It has been over a month since environmental activist Mugilan went missing and Tamil Nadu’s CB-CID (Crime Branch Criminal Investigation Department) told that Madras High Court that it had launched a manhunt for him.
In a status report submitted to the court, the CB-CID stated that 251 witnesses have been examined until March 15 in the hunt for the missing activist Mugilan.
Mugilan, a well-known environmental activist who has led a number of protests against illegal river sand mining, participated in the anti-nuclear protests at Kudankulam and also in the anti-Sterlite protests in Thoothukudi, went missing on 15 February. Mugilan is also the coordinator of the Tamil Nadu Environment Protection Movement.
Investigating officer Senthil Kumaran, Additional Superintendent of Police with the CB-CID, Villupuram filed a status report before court on Monday.
Here are the details of the report:
Mugilan attended a press meet on February 15 at the Chennai Press Club, where he released a documentary on the Anti-Sterlite protests and subsequent firing in Thoothukudi alleging a police conspiracy.
At about 10.30 pm he arrived at the Chennai Egmore railway station to take the train to Madurai.
According to the CCTV footage at the Egmore railway station, Mugilan was seen with his friend Ponnarasan at 10.15 pm. He then went out of the station by 10.30 pm.
He was later found to have come back into the railway station by 10.55 pm and the CCTVs registered him near the booking counter, then on Platform 4 and then on Platform 2 between 11.00 pm and 11.18 pm.
“He was last seen in the CCTV footages at about 23.18 hours, moving on Platform No. 2, by the side of Train no. 22623, Chennai Egmore-Madurai Mahal Superfast Express,” recorded the status report.
According to the call logs of his mobile, Mugilan had made two calls at around 10.55 pm and these had pinged off the Egmore tower.
“There were eight outgoing SMS from that cell number, between 00:39:25 and 00:42:46 on the same night, with tower location at Guduvancherry,” said the report. The train did cross Guduvancherry around that time that night, so it shows that Mugilan was in the train.
The train halts at the following stations: Villupuram, Tirupathiripuliyur, Chidambaram, Mayiladuthurai, Kumbakonam, Thanjavur, Trichy, Dindigul and finally its destination, Madurai. 17 teams headed by DSPs and Inspectors of CB-CID are investigating the case across all these areas.
“CCTV footages from Trichy and Madurai Railway Stations have been collected. CCTV footages at places near the remaining Railway Stations have also been collected… But, examination of CCTV footages did not reveal any such activity at any of the halting Railway Stations,” according to the report.
40 teams led by Inspectors of the CB-CID were deputed to carry out examination of unidentified male bodies in the state and compare them with the identification marks of Mugilan. 123 male unidentified bodies between February 15 and March 6 were compared but none of them tallied with the activist.
A reward has also been announced by the CB-CID for anyone with information leading to the finding of Mugilan.
Since Mugilan has been actively involved in a variety of protests and activism of different hues, the CB-CID says it is also looking into a number of issues that could have led to his disappearance.
“Discreet enquiries have also been conducted regarding Anti Sterlite issue to verify whether it is linked to the aspect of disappearance of Mugilan,” stated the report.
Investigations are continuing into whether Mugilan’s involvement in the anti-Sterlite protests, the protests organised by him against illegal river sand mining in Karur and neighbouring districts has anything to do with his disappearance.
A Hitherto Unknown Angle
The CB-CID reports details the statements given by one Rajeshwari, who was acquainted with Mugilan for the past three years who appears to have developed differences with him subsequently.
When Mugilan was in jail between September 2017 and September 2018 at the Palayamcottai Prison and later at Madurai Central Prison, Rajeshwari visited Mugilan, according to the CB-CID report.
“After his release from prison, Mugilan arranged for her stay at Irukkur village near Kabilarmalai, at the residence of his friend and associate Ponnarasan, from October 2018 to December 2018,” said the report.
Later though, Rajeshwari was upset that Mugilan had begun avoiding her, had “deserted her” and had been posting comments on social media “threatening to expose” the activist.
The CB-CID report states that Mugilan had confided in a friend Viswanathan that Rajeshwari had said she would “slap him with chappal” at the Chennai press meet. According to the report, Mugilan asked his friend Ponnarasan to accompany him so as to “handle Rajeshwari” in the event of her creating a ruckus at the press conference.
The report speaks of a “mediation” that was scheduled between Mugilan and Rajeshwari in the presence of his friend Viswanathan on 17 February at Karur. Due to this, Rajeshwari allegedly “refrained from making an issue” at the press meet.
Rajeshwari is quoted by the CB-CID as stating that Mugilan “went missing on 15-02-2019 night, only to avoid the mediation talks, regarding her issue, at Karur on 17-02-2019.”
This issue too is being investigated by the CB-CID.
It is unclear as to whether the stations in between Chennai Egmore and Madurai have CCTVs fitted in the premises, since the report speaks of CCTV footage only from Trichy and Madurai having been collected. For the rest of the stations, CCTV footage has been collected from “places near the remaining Railway Stations,” according to the report.
As the days tick on, no one seems to know where Mugilan is or what happened to him.