Murder and persecution of women and children accused of being witches are rampant in the tribal-dominated Sundergarh district in western Orissa causing concern in the administration.
As many as 70 per cent of the killings that took place in the district in the last few years are described as witch killings by the administration here.
According to official statistics, in the last five years 35 persons fell victims to the barbaric practises that have become a scourge not only in the impoverished tribal belts of India, but many other parts of the world including Africa and Latin America.
A belief in witches and evil spirits causing a range of calamities from famine to flood is widespread among tribal communities in these countries.
Sundergarh district is dominated by the Munda tribe among whose members illiteracy and witchcraft are widespread.
Citing a barbaric incident of torture, an old woman of Tainsar village, Tuni Ekka, was tonsured and paraded naked after being forced to carry night soil on her head sometime back.
Similar incidents abound in the district. A 62-year-old man was killed in the Telitola area in the same Tainsar village on September 20, this year after being accused of practising witchcraft.
Witch killings have also been reported from Gurundia, Koida, Bisra, Kunarmonda, Kutra and other tribal-dominated blocks in the district.
Even instances of sons killing their old parents on suspicion that their withcraft was responsible for setbacks in life have taken place at Koida, Gurundia and Rajagangpur blocks in the district, the official statistics said.