Police in north-central Assam’s Sonitpur district arrested seven persons on Monday for beheading a 63-year-old woman after branding her a witch.
A district police officer said the seven were among a group of people who barged into Poni Orang’s house in No 1 Bhimajuli village around noon, dragged her out and beheaded her with a machete.
Poni was an Adivasi while the arrested seven belong to the Karbi tribe. The two communities share the village near Biswanath Chariali town, 248 km northeast of Guwahati.
“The woman was targeted after one Anima Ronghangpi, a village quack, identified her as a witch responsible for recent deaths and diseases in the village. The quack is absconding,” the officer said.
District superintendent of police Manabendra Roy said: “The village is tense, but we have deployed an adequate number of police personnel in the village to keep things under control.”
Witch-hunting is common in Assam, especially in the Bodo and Adivasi-dominated areas. Official records say 132 people, mostly women and children, were killed in the state between 2002 and 2012 for allegedly practising witchcraft. Many others were tortured too.
A series of awareness campaigns by NGOs and the police have failed to stem the killings. Activists have been demanding a law against witch-hunting that often is the outcome of property disputes in rural Assam.