A three-and-half-year-old boy's genitals were chopped off at a village in Uttarakhand's Haridwar district on Saturday in a gruesome incident suspected to be linked to tantric rituals.
Police said the incident took place in the Mohammadpur area of Peeran Kaliyar, a small township around 80 km from here and famous for the shrine of a 13th century Sufi saint.
The victim, identified as Shoaib, is recuperating at the Shri Mahant Indresh Hospital in Dehradun where he was operated upon on Saturday night.
The station house officer of Civil Lines police station BD Uniyal said that five persons including two self-styled religious healers (tantriks) have been detained.
The two were allegedly seen in the vicinity of the incident site before and after the incident.
"We have registered a case based on a complaint by the victim's father and started investigations into it considering all aspects including the theory of sorcery," Uniyal said.
The victim's mother Gulshan, 25, said the child was playing in a sugarcane field in the afternoon when the assailants attacked him.
"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw him coming from the fields. He was in a shock and couldn't speak for hours. When he fainted in my arms I thought had I lost him," a sobbing Gulshan told Hindustan Times.
Shoaib's father Salim (30), a daily wage earner, said he found a shaving blade in a pool of blood in the field.
"We know someone has taken his vital parts for sorcery. Couples seeking to male child indulge in such heinous acts. We are sure of this because his parts are missing," Salim said.
Madhukar Maletha, paediatric surgeon at the Shri Mahant Indresh Hospital said they would go for another surgery for grafting skin sheets over the wound to cover it.
"Then we will also try to use make a passage for urine with leftover nerves," he added.
Maletha, however, ruled out possibility of reconstructing the genitals as the "degree of injury is very severe".
The incident comes a few weeks after the sexual organs of a 17-day-old boy were chopped off over an alleged family rivalry in Rajasthan.