Indian police are investigating a skeleton smuggling gang after a man was caught with skulls and bones of 50 different people on a train.
Government Railway Police arrested the suspected “corpse smuggler” at Chapra railway station in India’s eastern state of Bihar.
The arrested man, identified as Sanjay Prasad, was carrying 16 human skulls and 34 skeletal remains in his luggage and was travelling on the Balia-Sealdah Express to Kolkata, from where police said he was heading for the border to Bhutan.
Police suspect that the skeletons, which according to the suspect were brought from Balia in Uttar Pradesh, were then meant to be smuggled to China via Bhutan, reported the Times of India.
Mr Prasad was part of a gang who supplied human skeletons to “tantrics and occultists” in the Himalayan Kingdom, police said. They also claimed there was “huge demand for skeletons among medical students in China”.
He has been sent to jail while further investigation were on to trace his accomplices, said deputy superintendent of police Mohammad Tanvir.
It was unclear how Mr Prasad was alleged to have obtained the skeletal remains. While grave-robbing in poor areas is not unheard of, it usually takes place in Muslim or Christian communities, as Hindus favour cremation.
Morgue and crematorium workers, however, could potentially be bribed to perform swaps in which relatives are given substitute ashes while bodies are sold off, police said.
Mr Prasad was detained as during a routine inspection against liquor smuggling across state lines, “officers spotted suspicious movement of the suspect. He was detained and his bag opened,” said Station House Officer Suman Prasad Singh.
Mr Prasad has refused to confess during interrogation but his mobile contacts are also being scanned, Mr Singh added. Nepalese and Bhutanese currency, along with two identity cards and sim cards with Nepal mobile phone numbers were found in Mr Prasad’s possession, suggesting the racket stretches beyond India’s borders.
“The seizure of foreign currency is a definite indication that the racket and its tentacles may have spread to foreign countries,” Dept Supt Tanvir said.