An elderly couple was killed in Jharkhand’s Gumla district allegedly by their relatives who suspected that they practised witchcraft, police said on Saturday.
The incident happened around 9 pm on Friday in Bhagat Bukma village in Chainpur police station area, around 140 km from state capital Ranchi, they said.
Lundra Chik Baraik (65) and his wife Phulma Devi (60) were attacked with an axe and sticks when they were in their house, Chainpur sub-divisional police officer Cyril Marandi told PTI.
Lundra’s sister-in-law Sumitra Devi was arrested in connection with the murder, and the involvement of her son Ravindra and some other people is being probed, he said.
“During interrogation, Sumitra claimed that both the husband and wife were witches and they harmed people with their black magic,” Marandi said.
Sumitra’s daughter was ill for the past few days and she held the couple responsible for her illness, he said. She was booked under provisions of Prevention of Witch (DAAIN) Practices Act, he added.
Former village head Kishun Bhagat said that Lundra had met him on Friday morning, and said that Sumitra’s family was threatening him.
“A meeting was held in presence of village head Jairam Bhagat to sort out the issue. We tried to convince both the families but Sumitra’s family was leveling witchcraft allegations at Lundra’s family,” he said.
“Gauging the tension between the two families, villagers suggested they report the matter to the police. Lundra had gone to the police station. We do not know what happened thereafter. At night, we came to know that Lundra and his wife were killed,” Bhagat said.
Murder on suspicion of witchcraft has been a major issue in Jharkhand. In January this year, an elderly couple was lynched on suspicion of practising witchcraft in Arki police station area in Khunti district.
An analysis of NCRB’s data suggests that a total of 590 people, mostly women, were killed on allegations of practising witchcraft between 2001 and 2020.
The state registered the highest 54 witch-hunting murders in 2013, 52 in 2008 and 50 in 2007. Witchcraft murder cases started declining after 2014 when 47 people were killed. Thirty-two people were killed in 2015, 27 in 2016, 19 in 2017, 18 in 2018, and 15 each in 2019 and 2020.