Two days after two people were killed by a mob in a Rohimapur, a remote village under Dokmoka police station of Karbi Anglong district in Assam after local residents suspected them of practicing witchcraft, till now 11 people have been arrested and a massive manhunt is on to nab the others, police sources said.
The incident happened on Wednesday night but was first reported to the police on Thursday morning. While nine villagers were picked up on Thursday, two more were arrested on Friday. The arrested villagers were produced in a court and have been sent to police remand on Friday.
According to police sources, in Rohimapur, a girl from the village after falling sick was taken to Guwahati for treatment. She later died. The girl is a relative of the village headman of Rohimapur.
On Wednesday, at a post-death ritual of a girl in the village, a section of the villagers claimed that a 50-year-old widow Ramawati Halua, and a 28-year-old youth Bijoy Gaur had been practicing black magic and were responsible for the death of the girl.
The village is inhabited by people from the adivasi community who are either daily wage labourers or small-time farmers.
Soon, a mob started to beat her and attacked Bijoy and then Ramawati. They were beaten and lynched to death. Later, the bodies were dragged to a nearby hillock, prayers were offered to local deity and were cremated, police sourced added.
It was under the same Dokmoka police station that in 2018 two young men were beaten to death by a mob after they suspected them of being child kidnappers.
Since 2018, the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act, 2015, has been in use. It was passed by Assam assembly in 2015 with provisions of jail term up to life imprisonment.
In 2019, the Assam government informed the state legislative assembly that in 18 years, as many as 161 people have been killed in the state in cases of witch-hunting.
“Assam witch-hunting PPP act is there but witch-hunting cases are still happening. A major reason is police does not always act according to this law, they can arrest immediately under this law but that’s not happening always,” said anti witch-hunting activist Dibyajyoti Saikia.
Several with-hunting cases have been reported from other parts of the north-east in the past. In Meghalaya and Tripura, cases of witch-hunting have happened in some parts.