Guwahati: Nine people, including seven women, have been arrested on charges of criminal conspiracy for branding an Assam athlete as a witch, police said Wednesday.

Tulumai Medhi, Jugamayee Medhi, Kalmeswari Medhi, Purnima Hazarika, Meera Deka, Soroju Koch and Sarumai Bora have been arrested till date after the incident in Karbi Anglong district Thursday.

Two men – Radha Laskar, a Naamgharia (the person who heads a community prayer hall), and Dilsen Medhi – were also arrested  after an FIR was lodged by the athlete’s husband, a farmer.

Debajani Bora, a javelin thrower, who had won a gold medal in the 2011 National Masters Championship in Haryana, was targeted by the villagers at the instigation of the Laskar last Thursday at Cherekali village, about 20 km from the district headquarters Diphu.

She was attacked after a meeting at the Naamghar (the community prayer hall) concluded that a “witch was hidden” within Debajani that caused some deaths in the village.

The athlete, however, managed to escape after she received injury on her chest and back and was admitted to a local hospital.

Police said the arrested women, all aged over 45 years, are facing charges of being the part of a criminal conspiracy to attack Debajani.

The attack on Debajani in full public view shocked many. But the issue of targetting people in the name of “witch hunting” is not new in Assam. Several people, mostly women, are targeted, tortured and even killed every year after they are accused of practising witchcraft or black magic.

At least 85 cases of witch hunting have been registered by Assam Police since 2008.

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