Branded witches, 2 killed in Assam


The police in central Assam’s Karbi Anglong district have arrested nine people, including three women, for killing two persons after branding them witches.

Police said a murder case was registered under the Indian Penal Code and the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act against the nine who confessed to the killing.

The incident happened in Rahimapur, an Adivasi village about 80 km from district headquarters Diphu on September 30.

“A 50-year-old woman and an unrelated 28-year-old man were killed and cremated together after a kangaroo court was held in the courtyard of the village headman and held them responsible for the death of a girl on September 27,” the district’s Superintendent of Police Debojit Deuri told The Hindu.

The two were accused of practising black magic that made the girl fall ill and die.

“All the nine arrested confessed to having killed and cremated the two. Six others accused in the case are absconding,” Mr Deuri said.

A local police officer, recounting the confessional statements, said the two were bludgeoned to death before being cremated. Remains of their bodies recovered from the pyre have been collected for forensic test.

Social malaise

Witch-hunting has been an age-old social malaise in Assam, mostly reported from the western part of the State. Data presented in the State Assembly said witch-hunting claimed the lives of 107 people from 2011 to November 2019.

The Assam police had in 2001 launched Project Prahari to counsel certain communities against practising with-hunting. The initiative by former Director-General of Police Kuladhar Saikia followed the killing of five people after they were labelled “witches” in Kokrajhar district’s Thaigarguri village.

Karbi Anglong district has not been as notorious for witch-hunting but has recorded several instances of mob-lynching in recent years. The most infamous among them was the killing of two adventure-loving Assamese friends – Goa-based sound engineer Nilotpal Das and Guwahati-based businessman Abhijeet Nath – on June 8, 2018.

On February 28, a court in Diphu awarded life imprisonment to 12 people for lynching 16-year-old Jhankar Saikia on July 1, 2013, following a tiff over an auto-rickshaw charging ₹10 more than the normal fare.

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