A mum and her four children, including a baby, were beaten, killed with wooden sticks and an axe for “being witches” and later buried in a well. Mangri Munda and her two sons and two daughters – aged one, four, seven and 12, respectively – were killed as they slept and their bodies were dumped inside a well. Six men have been arrested on suspicion of the murders, say reports.
Kavita Jalan, senior police officer in the Sundergarh district of Orissa, India, said the main suspect claimed to be a “witch doctor”. In parts of India, “witch hunts” targeting women are fairly common. “We are trying to track others who were involved in the crime and will make more arrests. It is necessary to raise awareness among people in the village against such superstitious activities,” Ms Jalan added.
A group of men broke into Ms Munda’s home late into the night of January 25. Their bodies were discovered in the well the next day. Nine people were given the death penalty in Orissa last year for murdering three members of a family over suspicion of being witches. Police records state 99 cases of “witch hunting” were reported in 2017, which is an increase from the previous year, when 83 cases were reported. Superstitious beliefs are often behind some of these attacks, but there are occasions when people – especially widows – are targeted for their land and property.
Belief in witchcraft in Cross River State, especially in Calabar, the state capital, is widespread. Witches, female, and wizards, male, are believed to possess diabolical powers to attack anyone they so choose. Virtually every misfortune is attributed to witchcraft. If a person loses his job, witches are said to be responsible for his plight. When a man dies suddenly perhaps out of an illness that is medically proved, his demise is attributed to witchcraft attack. When someone is killed by alcoholism, it is believed that witches in the family cast a spell on him or if a lady is of marriage age and there is no man to engage her as wife, witches must have painted her black or blinded men from seeing her .
Incidentally, most of those at the receiving end of these weird accusations are family members, particularly children, who are accused of being witches when misfortune strikes their fathers are mothers. They are then subjected to severe torture to make them “confess” how much they have afflicted their parents or family members. Hardly does a week pass without the story being told of one child being branded a witch by a prophetess or a prophet in churches whose main preoccupation is to identify witches and wizards and thus wreaking havoc among family members. To make them confess, some of these kids have their private parts pierced with hot iron, some are bound hands and legs and thrown into rivers to be eaten by fishes, some are tied and left without food until the die of starvation, while some are simply sent away from home which accounts for the crowd of street kids roaming the streets of Calabar.
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