A 72-year-old priest has allegedly beheaded a 52-year-old man inside a temple in Odisha's Cuttack district for eating his dinner after smoking ganja (cannabis) with him, police said on Thursday.
The accused, Sansari Ojha, initially claimed he had performed a "human sacrifice" to end the COVID-19 pandemic after being "ordered by the Goddess in his dream" to do so, the police told news agency Press Trust of India.
However, during interrogation, the accused confessed to having killed Saroj Kumar Pradhan in a fit of rage after Pradhan ate his dinner, Cuttack (Rural) Superintendent of Police RB Panigrahi told news agency PTI.
The two had smoked ganja (cannabis) together, Mr Panigrahi said.
The incident took place at the Brahmani Devi temple in Bandhahuda village in Narasinghpur police station area on Wednesday night, following which Ojha surrendered himself before the police, he said.
"It was not a human sacrifice to curb the spread of COVID-19," the Superintendent of Police said, after visiting the village, over 100 km from Cuttack city.
"Sansari Ojha and Saroj Kumar Pradhan, who came from the same village, had old disputes and were both ganja (cannabis) addicts. They used to often pick up quarrels over trivial issues," the police officer told Press Trust of India.
The accused stayed in the basement of the temple after abandoning his family, while the deceased, a bachelor, often visited the temple at night and stayed there with Sansari Ojha, the officer said.
"On Wednesday night, the two entered into a quarrel after Pradhan ate Ojha's dinner," he said.
Enraged, Sansari Ojha picked up a sharp weapon lying nearby and beheaded Saroj Kumar Pradhan, the officer said.
After committing the murder, he walked up to the local police station around midnight and after narrating several stories, disclosed that he had murdered the man in a fit of rage, Mr Panigrahi said.
Residents of the area claimed Sansari Ojha had a long-standing land dispute with Saroj Kumar Pradhan over a mango orchard in the village, he said.
The priest has been arrested and booked under murder charges and the weapon used in the crime has been seized, the officer said, adding that the severed head and the body have been sent for a forensic examination.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)