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Mother and daughter killed in witch hunt

Daspur Oct. 17: Three women, including a mother and a daughter, were beaten to death yesterday after being branded witches by villagers in West Midnapore, in what some said was the fallout of Trinamul-CPM rivalry.

Police said all three belonged to the same family and were CPM supporters. The bodies of Phumani Singh, 72; her daughter Titli, 42; and Titli’s sister-in-law Sambari, 40, were buried on the banks of the Kansai in Debra. Two of their distant relatives — Budhu Singh and Mongla Singh — are missing since yesterday.

District superintendent of police Sunil Chowdhury said seven persons have been arrested.

According to some youths in Dubrajpur, the three women were being threatened by local Trinamul workers with dire consequences if they didn’t defect to their party.

Youth Trinamul president of Narajole Tarun Maity denied the allegation. “Last night’s incident happened because of their long-standing dispute with the villagers who believed the three were witches. It has nothing to do with Trinamul,” he said.

A farmer said some villagers had been telling people that the trio were responsible for several deaths in the area in the past few weeks. “They were telling people the women were witches and it was because of their evil spell that men and animals in the area were dying,” he said.

The youth named one Thaba Singh as leading the group.

According to another villager, the mother and daughter were taken to a salishi in the house of Trinamul leader Bablu Singh last evening. Titli’s husband, he added, had gone to an adjoining village to watch a football match and her 16-year-old son was held by some villagers. The third lady was taken to another village.

“Bablu asked the women to pay Rs 60,000. When they pleaded helplessness, around 20 villagers started beating them up with sticks. I didn’t dare raise an alarm,” he added.

Bablu refused comment.