A woman in West Bengal's Malda district was allegedly caught eating the flesh of her four-year-old daughter after cutting off a portion of the skin of her head, police said on Thursday.
A resident of Gopalpur village under Malda's English Bazar police station, 42-year-old Pramila Mondal was seen by her brother-in-law Dablu Mondal eating her daughter's flesh.
"Pramila's house is next to ours. When my husband entered her house, he could hear little Bharati's screams. She was sitting on her mother's lap crying as her mother ate her flesh. The scene was shocking beyond words. Her son Swarna was sleeping in the room at that time," said Falguni Mondal, Dablu's wife.
Dablu and Falguni rescued Bharati, who was bleeding profusely, and rushed her to Malda Medical College and Hospital (MMCH).
As news about the incident spread, villagers reached Pramila's house and tied her and beat her up. Sources said Pramila confessed to the mob what she had done but could not explain why she did it.
A section of villagers alleged that Pramila, a mother of five, is a drug addict and had been consuming alcohol since Wednesday evening.
Soneka Mondal, a member of Jadupur-II gram panchayat from RSP, said, "Around five months ago, the woman tried to set her daughter, Parbati, on fire. Since then, Parbati lives at her uncle's house most of the time."
Pramila was rescued from the mob by the police who reached Gopalpur after being informed about the incident.
"We rescued the woman while she was being beaten up. We are interrogating Pramila now. No complaint has been lodged against her," said Dilip Karmakar, inspector-in-charge of English Bazar police station.
Sources said her husband, Habu Mondal, went to Delhi to work as a labourer year ago and has not come back since. With two of her daughters married off two years ago, Pramila lives with her two other daughters Parbati, 8, Bharati and two-year-old son Swarna.
They said Parbati was ill for the last few days and was sent to her uncle's house for treatment two days ago.
English Bazar's block development officer Partha Dey said that Bharati has been admitted to the ICU of MMCH.
"If needed, the juvenile justice court and child welfare committee may intervene in the matter. I have heard that the family is very poor but that could not have led to such behaviour. We are looking into the matter," Dey added.
A senior doctor of the state health department, Dr Dipali Mondal, said Parbati needs immediate treatment and could be suffering from some psychological disorder.
"I do not think what happened had anything to do with hunger pangs. The woman has lost touch with reality. Seldom do we hear of people behaving so inhumanly with their children," said the doctor.