Around 50 villagers in a rural community in the state of Jharkhand have been arrested for killing five women they believed to be practicing witchcraft, including a mother and daughter. The Guardian reports that the killings took place in a region where there are frequent attacks on women believed to have cast curses on locals.
Villagers armed with bricks, sticks, and knives attacked the five tribal women on Friday night in the town of Kanjia, police officials said. Locals believed the women had cast curses that resulted in poor crops, illness, or misfortune. However, the brutal attack on the women is said to have been triggered by the death of an unidentified 17-year-old who died four days earlier. A sorcerer from an adjoining village attributed his death to witchcraft.
"Groups of villagers used wooden sticks and sharp-edged weapons to beat and murder the women," local police inspector Bandana Bakhla said. "They blamed the women for misfortune in the village and alleged it was their fault that many people here were falling ill."
After villagers decided to "solve the problem for once and all," some youths dragged 53-year-old Etwaria Kholkho out of her home, accusing her of being a witch. According to the Indian Express, the youths demanded she name the other "witches" in the village, and she named three other women, age 40-55, and her mother, Ratiya Kholkho.
"The women were dragged out of their home while asleep and beaten to death by the villagers suspecting them to be witches … some were even stoned to death," said Jharkhand police spokesperson SN Pradhan, adding, "The entire village was involved in the crime."
A family member of a victim said, "They raided our home shortly past midnight. We prayed for mercy but they hardly listened to our appeal." Witnesses said the attackers stuffed the victims' bodies in sacks and discarded them like trash outside the village boundary. Their bodies were discovered the following day. The state government has ordered interim relief to the families of the victims.
"What is most shocking is the alleged involvement of youths who are studying to be graduates," said local reporter Javed Khan. The sorcerer who incited the vengeful mob was not among the 50 arrested. According to police, the murderous villagers did not show any remorse. "What can you expect from the society when even educated youths join the angry mob?," said a local lawmaker Gangotri Kujur.
According to the Indian government, nearly 2,000 women accused of engaging in witchcraft were killed between 2000 and 2012. IndiaToday reports that since 2001, Jharkhand accounts for 400 women who were murdered after being labelled a witch.
Public fear and misunderstanding of Wiccan culture is not limited to India, of course. A previous Inquisitr article reports that Time magazine compared witches to terrorists, and recently, a Florida sheriff infuriated some local witches when he blamed them for the horrific triple slaying of a mother and her two sons, NY Daily News reports.
[Image via IndianExpress]
[Image via news.com.au]