Two people were killed by a mob in a remote village in Assam after local residents suspected them of practicing witchcraft and a kangaroo court decided to kill them, police sources said.
The incident happened on Wednesday night but was first reported to the police on Thursday morning. The police have recovered some remains of the two people and have so far arrested nine villagers.
According to police sources, in remote Rohimapur area under the Dokmoka police station of Karbi Anglong district, a woman from the village died a few days ago after falling sick and was taken to Guwahati for treatment.
On Wednesday, at a post-death ritual for her in the village, another woman — a 50-year-old widow Ramawati Halua — started to behave in an “abnormal” way, the villagers claimed.
The village is inhabited by people from the Adivasi community who are either daily wagers or small-time farmers.
Some of the villagers alleged that Ramawati was practicing witchcraft. A kangaroo court trial adjudged her as a witch and held her responsible for “bad fortunes” of the people in the village including deaths, police sources said.
Soon, a mob started to beat her and attacked her with sharp weapons. When a 28-year-old educated young man of the village Bijoy Gaur intervened and accused them of being superstitious, he was attacked as well, police sources added.
The angry mob beat both of them to death, offered rituals to the local deity and tried to cremate the bodies in a nearby hill, police sources said.
“It happened on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday morning, upon receiving the information, we went to the spot. We collected the mortal remains of the victims from the burning pyre as well. We also collected soil samples from the spot. We have seized the sharp weapons used for the crime and have arrested nine people,” said Debojit Deori, Karbi Anglong’s Superintendent of Police.
“They are being interrogated and we are looking out for more people,” he added.
The nine people arrested are all from the same village and same community. They will be produced in the court on Friday, police sources added.
It was under the same Dokmoka police station that in 2018 two young men were beaten to death by an angry mob after it suspected them of being child-lifters.
Since 2018, the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act, 2015, has been in use.
According to the new law, witch-hunting is viewed as a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence. 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.