An elderly couple were allegedly burnt to death and a woman was forced to eat pig excreta in witch-hunting and sorcery related incidents in Jajpur and Malkangiri districts of Odisha.
Sources said villagers of Nimapalli Surasahi, a tribal hamlet under Pingal panchayat of Jajpur district, around 150km from here, surrounded the house of Saral Balimuchha, 60, and Sambari, 50, on Sunday night and set it on fire while the couple were asleep.
The couple were charred to death and the five-room thatched house reduced to ashes.
Sources said five to seven children in the village had fever and local residents suspected the couple’s “black magic” behind their illness. In anger, the villagers set the house of the couple on fire.
Jajpur superintendent of police C.S. Meena visited the spot on Monday and started an inquiry. “An inquiry is under way. The circumstances under which the two were killed are being ascertained. We are suspecting sorcery to be one of the reasons for the murder. Let’s wait. We will brief the media later,” Meena told The Telegraph.
In another incident, a woman was forcibly fed pig excreta by a sorcerer in order to “exorcise” evil spirits from her body in Malkangiri district. The incident took place in MV-6 village of the district on Sunday.
Sources said Lipika Orao, wife of tribal farmer Santosh Orao, fell sick. The family contacted the local quacks. After her condition deteriorated, they decided to take the help of a sorcerer. The sorcerer, who claimed to be exorcising an evil spirit from Lipika’s body, branded her face with a hot iron and later forced her to eat pig excreta. He left after the woman’s condition did not improve.
Local Asha worker Laxmi Munda rushed to the spot after learning about the incident and later admitted Lipika to hospital. “The woman suffered burn injuries,” said Laxmi.
Although nobody in the village lodged a complaint, police have registered a suo motu case and arrested the sorcerer.
The state government promulgated the Odisha Prevention of Witch-Hunting Act in 2013 to check witchcraft-related crimes but the number of cases has not shown any significant decline. An average of 70 lives are lost every year in witch-hunting related incidents in Odisha.
On June 15, a 29-year-old man had allegedly chopped off the head of a 60-year-old woman suspecting her to be a witch who was responsible for the death of his child. Later, he had brought the severed head to the police station and surrendered. The incident took place at a village under Khunta police station area in tribal dominated Mayurbhanj district.
Rationalist Debendra Sutar told this newspaper: “We can get rid of such evils only through a sustained public awareness campaign. We also need proper enforcement of the (prevention of witch-hunting) act to stop such practices.”