An old couple was allegedly beaten up and burnt to death after some villagers suspected them of being involved in witchcraft. Their house was also set afire. The incident was reported at Girda police outpost under Bano police station area of Jharkhand’s Simdega district on Wednesday. Three persons were arrested on Friday by the police.
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According to the police, the information about the alleged incident came to light when a person from Tembra village walked nearly 15 km to the Girda police outpost on Wednesday. Being heavily naxal-affected area, the police reached the village in the afternoon following all standard-operating procedures. The bodies were found hidden inside a stack of freshly-cut paddy at a farm close to the house of the victims, identified as Lohra Singh (70) and his wife Chorati Devi (62).
“The bodies had injury marks and some of their body parts were completely charred. The accused had also set their house on fire, but it did not burn out completely. A post-mortem has been conducted. Following interrogation, it came to light that three persons were primarily involved in the incident. All three of them – two persons named Shankar Singh and one Vijay Singh – were arrested today,” said Sub-Divisional Police Officer (Simdega) Amit Kumar Singh.
Singh said that one aunt and a niece of one of the Shankar Singh had died in the last 45 days due to some illness. The second Shankar Singh’s two relatives – a brother and his mother-in-law – had also died in the same time period on different dates.
“During their initial interrogation, they have told the police that they took the extreme step after they could not fathom out the reason for the deaths of their relatives in quick succession,” said Singh.
The accused have also revealed that they had consulted some oracle in the village, who had “helped them identify the culprits” responsible for the deaths of their family members. “We have identified them. They too would be arrested soon,” said Singh. He added that the accused had earlier tried to “pacify their deities by offering them sacrifices of animals”, but had got no relief.
The police said that the accused had reached the house of the old couple past midnight on Tuesday. They first beat them to death and then burnt their bodies in early morning, while hiding in the paddy stack.
“The nearest public health centre from the village was at Bano Block, nearly 50 km from the village. Tembra village is located nearly 115 km from Simdega district town, which is around 105 km from state capital Ranchi. It is on the border of Chaibasa, Simdega and Odisha,” added the official.
This is the second incident of murder following suspicion on witchcraft in the state within a week. On December 9, a woman in Khunti district had burnt an old woman to death following the death of her twins within a space of six days.