Two people were killed by a mob in a remote village in Assam after residents suspected them of practicing witchcraft and a kangaroo court decided to kill them, police sources said.
The incident happened on Wednesday evening but was first reported to police on Thursday morning. Police have recovered some of the remains of the two and have so far arrested nine villagers.
According to police sources, in the remote area of Rohimapur under Dokmoka Police Station of Karbi Anglong District, a woman from the village died a few days ago after falling ill and was taken to Guwahati for treatment.
During a post-death ritual for her in the village on Wednesday, another woman – a 50-year-old Ramawati Halua widow – began to behave in an “abnormal” manner, villagers said.
The village is inhabited by people from the Adivasi community who are either daily bets or small farmers.
Some villagers claimed that Ramawati practiced witchcraft. A kangaroo trial found her a witch and held her responsible for the “bad luck” of the villagers, including deaths, police sources said.
Soon a mob started beating her and attacked her with sharp weapons. When a 28-year-old educated young man from the village of Bijoy Gaur intervened and accused them of being superstitious, he was also attacked, police sources added.
The angry mob beat them to death, offered rituals to the local deity and tried to cremate the bodies at a nearby hill, police sources said.
“This happened on the night of Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday morning, after receiving the information, we went to the site. We also collected the mortal remains of the victims in the burning pyre. We also have collected soil samples on the spot. “We seized the sharp weapons used in the crime and arrested nine people,” said Debojit Deori, police superintendent of Karbi Anglong.
“They are being questioned and we are looking for more people,” he added.
The nine people arrested are all from the same village and the same community. They will be produced in 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 they suspected them of being child lifters.
As of 2018, the 2015 Assam Witch Hunt (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act has been in effect.
Under the new law, witch-hunting is considered an identifiable, incompetible and non-cumulative offense. It was adopted by the Assembly of Assam in 2015 with prison provisions of up to life imprisonment.
In 2019, the government of Assam informed the state legislature that in 18 years, as many as 161 people had been killed in the state in witch-hunts.