A crusade against alcoholism could have led to the killing of the five women in Jharkhand, who were branded as witches by fellow villagers, police suspect.
The women aged between 45 and 50, who were lynched by a mob early on Friday at Kanjiya village, barely 40km from Ranchi, could have been victimized for campaigning against alcoholism that is rampant among the tribal people in the region, police said.
Jharkhand, where there are frequent reports of fatal attacks on women who locals say have cast curses that are blamed for poor crops, illness or misfortune.
Experts say superstitious beliefs are behind some of these attacks, but there are occasions when people - especially widows - are targeted for their land and property.
The deceased--Jacinta Khalko, Etawari Khalko, Madani Khalko, Titri Khalko and Rakia Khalko-- had actively participate in anti-alcohol campaigns during the 2014 national and state elections, police investigations have revealed.
"Apart from the superstition (angle), we are probing whether the anti-alcohol movement led to the death of these women," said superintendent of police (rural) Rajkumar Lakra. The interrogations are being carried out.”
Deputy inspector general of police AK Singh said: “There are a lot of dimension to the investigation. Each angle is being probed. We will soon have results."
, stripped and lynched to death by villagers allegedly for practicing witchcraft.
The death of five children in the village within a span of six months had deepened the superstitious beliefs and suspicion of the villagers who said that the women had cast spell on them.
According to the state social welfare department records, around 1,046 women were killed after being branded witches between 1995 and 2014.
Jharkhand police records show a gradual increase in the number of witch hunt related killings - 36 in 2012, 54 in 2013 and 56 until November 2014.
Land disputes accounts for more than 70% of the witch hunt killing in the state, said Mahua Majhi, the chairperson of the state women commission. “The killings often disguise family feuds or land disputes,” she said.
Experts say drinking liquor is imbedded in the tribal culture and it was a difficult task to end it.