Madhya Pradesh, Nov 20, 2019: He dreamed of a life in the Army, wore his hair in a dashing undercut and liked to go running.
And run he did on Monday, accompanied by his friends: except this time he didn’t come back to his home in Dondari, a village in the northern Madhya Pradesh district of Morena.
They found him dead near a tree in the fields. He had been strangled. He was missing both eyes. His right ear had been sliced clean. Blood flowing out of an eye socket ran down his temple before staining the ground.
And then there was the coconut.
The puja accoutrements.
Villagers think the young victim, still a minor, was sacrificed. His family suspects his friends and a tantric, who are all now being questioned.
Attempts at human sacrifice have been reported in other states in recent months.
In June, a man hacked his 12-year-old nephew to death with a billhook to "appease deities" for a good harvest.
In July, a family in Assam tried to sacrifice a three-year-old at home, but locals were able to alert the police and save the child.
Back in Dondari, extra forces have been deployed, and villagers have been left wondering who could despise someone so young enough to kill with such brutality.