Hundred Sacks full of human thighbones and skulls were seized on June 12 in Jaigaon town in Jalpaiguri district near the Indo-Bhutan border. The North Bengal police are trying to find from their Bhutanese counterparts where the remains were headed.
It is suspected the thighbones and skulls reach countries like China, Tibet, Thailand and other countries, for use in the ceremonies of Tibetan Buddhism. Thighbones are fashioned as blow-horns and the skulls as drinking and eating vessels for these observances.
The Jaigaon seizure is the biggest in recent times and the result of a joint operation by the army intelligence and West Bengal Police.
Earlier, the smuggling of human skulls from Siliguri was believed to be for medical institutes and students. Although there had been seizures of huge consignments of the bones in the past, it is only now that the police have learnt about the international angle to the racket. R J S Nalwa, inspector general of police (North Bengal) said the 300 thighbones and 150 human skulls had been bought for Rs 50 and Rs 300 each from the cremation grounds of Gaya and Varanasi. After they are touched up at Jaigaon, the thighbones sell for Rs 3,000 each and the skulls for Rs 5,000 each in international markets, he informed. Investigators are also not ruling out procurement locally.
Four persons, Sanjay, Mohan Shaw, Rajdeo Shaw of Bihar and Pandey Chettri of Nepal, were arrested. Their interrogation revealed that Siliguri, being close to India’s border with Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, facilitated the smuggling to these countries. Buddhist monks in Sikkim and at Salugara denied that the local monasteries had any use for the bones. But they admitted that monasteries pursuing Tibetan Buddhism and tantric practices use them.
The West Bengal Police and Bhutan Police are looking for a Tshring Dorjee Lama of Thimpu who was the smugglers’ contact in Jaigaon. Police said Sanjay’s father had brought the bones from Gaya.
Varanasi, where people come to die in the belief they will get salvation, sees many cremations each day. Over a 100 bodies are cremated daily at the Manikernika Ghat and Harishchander Ghat alone. Besides these, there are many bodies of dead poverty-stricken people that lie unclaimed. People, especially outsiders having a train to catch, also leave bodies half-burnt at the cremation ghats in their hurry to leave.
“We collect human skulls and bones for the Aghor Panthi for their tantra sadhana”, said Bhadhur Chaudhary, a family member of Dom Raja, who cremates dead bodies at the Harishchandra and Manikernika ghats. Although there are no official reports of bone smuggling from Varanasi, locals know it exists.