Gumla , July 21, 2019: Residents of a village in Jharkhand, eastern India, on July 21 lynched four tribal people, branding them as witches.
The incident occurred around 3 am at Siskari village in Gumla district, around 110 km west of Ranchi, the state capital.
Police said the mob dragged the four out of their houses and beat with them batons and sharp weapons.
The victims were identified as Suna Oraon, 65, Phagni Devi,60, Chapa Bhagat, 65, and Piri Devi, 62, who was Chapa’s wife. Nearly 90 percent of the village population is tribal.
“Prima-facie, it seems to be a case of witch-hunt. During interrogation, villagers and family members admitted that all four elderly persons were involved in occultism. Besides, the evidence we collected from the place of occurrence also indicates that it is a case of witchcraft,” Gumla Superintendent of Police Anjani Kumar Jha said.
According to the information police gathered from the villagers, about a dozen people forcibly entered the houses of three families in the village and dragged them out near the village Anganwadi Centre, where they were beaten brutally with sticks and sharp weapons.
Neither the villagers nor the family members of the deceased informed the police about the incident.
“We received information about the incident at around 4.30 am. A team immediately rushed to the spot,” Jha said.
However, nobody in the village was ready to cooperate in the investigation. The villagers are refraining from speaking about the perpetrators of the crime, police said.
Jha said, “We are suspecting that some village people are involved in the crime. Anything concrete could be said in this regard only after completion of the investigation.”
Villagers said all four people were poverty-stricken. Chapa Bhagat and his wife Piri Devi earned their livelihood by selling potatoes in the local market, while Suna Oraon was engaged in farming. Phagni Devi used to stay at home. However, all four of them were involved in occultism, the villagers alleged.
Jharkhand is one of the states affected by witch hunting. An analysis of the National Crime Records Bureau data shows a total of 523 women lynched after being branding as witches during 2001-2016 in Jharkhand. The state had the most witch-hunting murders in 2013, when 54 people were killed.
In 2016, the tribal state topped the chart of witch-hunting in the country with 27 women lynched. This was followed by Odisha, with 24 witch-hunting murders.
(The Hindustan Times)