A woman and her three-year-old son died after they were set afire by their neighbours in Pandhurna in Chhindwara district, about 275kms south east of Bhopal, on Tuesday. The neighbours suspected that the woman was a sorceress.
The victim, Neelu, 25, and her three-year-old son, Shubham, got critical burns. They were rushed to Nagpur for treatment but they succumbed to their injuries on the way. The accused have been arrested.
The incident followed a row between Neelu and an elderly woman, Gunna Bai, living in neighbourhood. Neelu had come to her parents' house recently.
Her mother and daughter had died recently. She suspected that her neighbour Gunna Bai practiced witchcraft and had termed her a tonhi (sorceress).
The issue had reached the panchayat. However, Neelu had come from the panchayat before it ended. She was again called to panchayat on Tuesday. But she didn't go and instead said that she would go back to her husband's village in the same district rather than going to the panchayat.
On Tuesday, Gunna Bai's kin Kailash Marskole and Arvind barged into Neelu's residence and told her that she will have to face the panchayat. They abused her and after an altercation allegedly poured kerosene on her before they set her afire. Her child was also burnt.
The accused fled the spot. The neighbours rushed to victims' help. The mother and son were rushed to a local hospital and later referred to Nagpur. But they died on way. The victim's eight-year-old daughter had run away during the row and was saved. The police have registered a case and have begun investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident.