Indian Catholic News

Mother and daughter accused of sorcery murdered in India's east

Authorities seek community support to stem modern witch hunts.

(File photo)
New Delhi: 

Old superstitions and the collective failure of government and civil society is being blamed for the murder of two women in India’s eastern Jharkhand state for allegedly practicing witchcraft.

Neighbors last week hacked to death a 56-year-old woman and her daughter, who was aged in her mid-twenties, in West Singhbhum district after they were accused of sorcery, police said.

The women were attacked after a neighbor complained that a relative died as a result of their sorcery, police told media.

Father Anand David Xalxo, spokesperson of Ranchi Archdiocese expressed regret that such unwarranted brutality existed in this day and age.

Victims of witch hunting are mostly women.

According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, between 2000-2012 more than 2,000 people were killed after being accused of being witches.

Some states have passed anti-witch hunting laws.

In 2001, Jharkhand introduced a penalty of up to three years' imprisonment for identifying a person as a witch.

Causing harm to anyone in the belief that they are involved in witchcraft can lead to imprisonment for up to six months.

Between 2001 and 2016, at least 523 women were lynched in the state after they were accused of being witches, including 54 such killings in 2013 alone.

Tribal-stronghold states of Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana are the worst affected states, according to official reports.

However, superstition is not the sole cause of the phenomenon, church people have said.

Land or financial disputes, personal grudges and caste discrimination can all be factors in the branding of people as witches as a pretext for them being killed.

Father Vincent Ekka, who heads the department of tribal studies at the Indian Social Institute in the capital, New Delhi, said the slayings stemmed largely from lack of official resources being devoted to educating people to abandon dangerous and socially harmful superstitions.

Ratan Tirkey, who is a member of the Tribes Advisory Committee of the Jharkhand state government, told that there had been a collective failure to stem these violent acts.

"We need to join hands to stop the practice," he said, adding that all levels of government and civil society should be involved.

Jharkhand, with a population of 33 million people, has some 1.4 million Christians, most of whom are indigenous or belong to the Dalit community, formerly known as untouchables.

The state's 4.5 percent Christian population is almost double that of the national average.

Source: UCAN

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