The family members of five women, lynched by a mob after being accused of practicing witchcraft, recalled the horror as they watched helplessly the women being beaten to death right in front of them.
Etwari, Jacinta, Madani Khalko, Titri Khalko and Rakia Khalko were the five women who were branded witches, dragged out of their homes and lynched by a mob in a Jharkhand village in the wee hours of Saturday.
The 35-year-old Angi Oraon, daughter of Etwari, watched her mother helplessly as she was dragged out of her house. "She wore a wig and the villagers believed the hair had black magic which led to a boy's death," said Angi as she cleaned the pieces of roof tiles broken on Etwari's head by villagers.
Read | 5 Jharkhand women lynched for allegedly practising witchcraft
"They (villagers) poured in from all sides with LED torches. Shouting daain (witch), they pulled my mother out while women and men beat her to death," she added.
Meanwhile, 25-year-old Animiha Khalko, Jacinta’s (a health worker) daughter, sat in the shadows of her mud house as 150 policemen tried to keep the situation 'peaceful' in the village.
"It was 1am. Villagers banged vehemently of the front door. I opened it. They rushed in, pulled out my mother and beat her with batons and sticks. A final blow with a stone to her head and she bled to death as I watched from my room," said Animiha.
Jacinta was still alive when around 150 villagers left her house. "Taking her to a doctor was impossible. Two villagers were at guard," said Jacinta’s husband, Mathias Khalko. "I, along with Jacinta's sister, was locked up by the villagers."
Police officials said the attacks happened after 17-year-old Bipin Khalko died of jaundice on Sunday according to medical reports.
"Families are terrified. We have assured them protection till the guilty are arrested. We have learnt that an ojha (village medicine man) had branded them witches and ordered their murder," said deputy inspector general of police Arun Kumar Singh.
Mukhiya Kanjiya Prem Chand Ekka said, "I learnt there was a village meeting on Wednesday. The families knew they were the targets and defended themselves. Villagers, however, did not care." Ekka added that the villagers believed that every death in the village was because of the five women.
Chairperson of Jharkhand State Women Commission Mahua Majhi condemned the killings and blamed lack of awareness among the villagers. "The death of Bipin was from jaundice and not from magic. These women were killed because of superstitions," she said.