Eight people including two priests were arrested on Monday for allegedly lynching four tribals in Jharkhand’s Gumla district on the suspicion that they were practising witchcraft, police said.
The arrested were among a group of people who allegedly dragged the four elderly people out of their homes at Nagar-Siskari village and beat them to death early Sunday, according to a statement. Sticks suspected to have been used in the crime were also seized, it said.
This incident takes the total number of ‘witchcraft’ killings in Jharkhand since 2017 to 88.
SP (Gumla) Anjani Kumar Jha said the investigation revealed that the victims were involved in “ojha-guni”. He said the latest incident occurred after a boy died earlier this month due to illness, and residents suspected that the victims had carried out “some sort of sorcery”.
At 4.30 am on Sunday, eight people allegedly barged into the house of the four victims — identified as Suna Oraon, 65, Champa Oraon, 79, Fagni Oraine, 60, and Piro Oraine, 74 — of Nagar Siskari village under Sisai police station of Gumla district. They were dragged to a nearby area and attacked with sticks and sharp objects until they lost consciousness. A case was registered under IPC sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 302 (murder) and under The Prevention of Witch (DAAIN) Practices Act, 2001, Jharkhand.
Police said they keep conducting workshops to spread awareness and fight superstition. However, in the last two months, 10 people have been killed in Saraikela, Khunti and Gumla in Jharkhand, according to Association for Social and Human Awareness (ASHA), which has been working for people branded as witches.
“The government needs to work tirelessly or else lynching in the name of witchcraft will continue in Jharkhand. In case of any death, the mukhiyas of the villages have to be held accountable.” He added that they had done a survey where in 332 panchayats out of 4,000 in Jharkhand, around 332 women have been marked as “witches” by villagers.