As many as 11 people died and 82 were hospitalised after consuming religious food offering -- or prasad -- at a temple in Karnataka's Chamarajnagar district today, police said.
A district official claimed that some toxic substance may have got mixed with the religious offering being served at the Kichu Maranda temple in Sulivadi village, resulting in the tragedy. "We have collected samples and sent them to a laboratory for analysis," he said.
The ailing have been hospitalised in hospitals across Chamarajnagar and Mysuru districts, and many of them are on ventilator support.
According to a witness, devotees decided to eat the rice-based offering although it was smelling of kerosene. "Soon afterwards, they complained of stomachache and began vomiting," he added.
Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy expressed shock over the incident, and directed the authorities to ensure that the affected people receive proper medical treatment. He also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for each of the victims' families.
"I came to know about this while I was returning from Belagavi. Spoke to district authorities. At first I did not realise how serious it was. Our MLA, Puttaraju, went to the spot. There are reports that the food was deliberately poisoned. It is being tested. Action will be taken against whoever is behind this inhuman act," Mr Kumaraswamy said.
Police said the religious offering was distributed after the temple's foundation-laying ceremony. "Doctors think the toxin could be pesticide," said an officer, adding that an investigation will confirm how the toxic substance entered the food.
(With inputs from PTI)