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Woman burns infant son to appease deity

Sivasagar, Dec. 24: A woman killed her five-month-old son as a religious sacrifice to appease a deity at Sonari town in Sivasagar district, about 360km from Guwahati.

Ranju Devi, 25, believed that sacrificing her child Laxman Saha would eradicate ill luck from the family. “She observed a ritual on Monday midnight at her home and burned her son to death. The baby was placed in a fireplace erected during the ritual,” a source said.

Ranju Devi’s husband and other family members, who were present in the house, had no knowledge about the ritual. “Stunned by the sudden act of sacrifice, her husband and her two brothers tried to save the baby but it was too late,” a source said.

Her husband and brothers later wrapped the mutilated body in a white cloth and quietly buried it at the Sonari crematorium to avoid the consequences, the source added.

The incident came to light after the couple’s landlord, Bikash Dutta, reported the matter to Sonari police this morning. The police immediately swung into action and exhumed the body from the crematorium in the presence of an executive magistrate.

Sivasagar additional superintendent of police (headquarters) Jayanta Sarathi Bora said the police had arrested Ranju Devi, her husband Chote Saha, 34, and her brother Sunil Saha, 19. “Bijoy Saha, 22, another brother of Ranju Devi, who was involved in burial of the body, is absconding,” he added.

While Ranju Devi was arrested for killing her son, the other two have been arrested for destroying evidence and hiding the body.

The couple had come to Sonari for livelihood recently and had put up at a rented house, adjoining Ranju’s brothers’ house, at Tanki Nath Baruah Road (earlier Danga Road) under ward number 4 in Sonari town. They hail from Khabis gulli village under Jada police station in Darbhanga district of Bihar.

They had three children — a five-year-old son and the twins Ram and Laxman.

Neighbours said the woman was deeply religious and regularly observed puja at her home. “I had seen a pujari (priest) regularly visiting her house during the past few days. His involvement in conducting the ritual cannot be ruled out,” a neighbour said. The family members are tightlipped about the presence of any religious person during the ritual.

Charaideo sub-divisional police officer Pranab Pegu said the body had been sent to Sivasagar civil hospital for post-mortem. “A case has been registered at Sonari police station under Sections 302, 201 and 34 IPC,” he said.

Sources said Ranju Devi had confessed to her crime during interrogation. “The police are also investigating the possibility of involvement of persons other than the family members in the incident,” a source said.

Speaking to reporters in Sonari after her arrest, Ranju Devi said in Bhojpuri that what she did was right and for the good of her son and her family. “I sacrificed my son to please God and will sacrifice the other if needed.”

A police official said Ranju Devi seemed mentally unstable. “Her husband had revealed during interrogation that Ranju had seen in her dreams that one of the twins had to be sacrificed to save the other from sickness,” he said.

Human sacrifice in Assam is associated with the worship of Kali. There is evidence that males were sacrificed to the goddess at the Kamakhya temple in Assam. On October 24 this year, a man killed his 13-year-old son at Guijan village in Tinsukia district in what is being termed as a case of human sacrifice. Reports say he was a devotee of goddess Durga, who had “appeared” in his dream and demanded human sacrifice.

Attacks against people suspected to be practising witchcraft is also on the rise in the state, impelling the government to bring in an anti-superstition bill in the Assembly.