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Elderly woman beheaded, husband killed in Jharkhand; police suspect witch-hunting

The assailants, who broke into the couple’s house at Dadgama village in Jharkhand’s Khunti, also assaulted their children and made off with the woman’s head after beheading her.

india Updated: Jun 16, 2018 11:07 IST
Sanjoy Dey
Sanjoy Dey
Hindustan Times, Ranchi
Jharkhand,Elderly woman beheaded,Witch hunting
Police said the victims, identified as Satri Munda and his wife Javni Devi (both 55), were at their residence in Dadgama village of Jharkhand when the culprits broke in and killed them.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A gang of unidentified people killed an elderly couple before beheading one of them at a village in Khunti district on Thursday midnight. Police believe it could be a case of “witch-hunting”, a problem that has plagued rural Jharkhand for ages.

Police said the victims, identified as Satri Munda (55) and his wife Javni Devi (50), were at their residence in Dadgama village when the culprits broke in that night. They also assaulted their children – who were home at the time – and made off with Devi’s head after decapitating her.

“We are investigating the murder from every angle. The modus operandi indicates that this was part of a possible witch-hunt,” said Khunti superintendent of police Ashwini Kumar Sinha.

Primary investigation revealed the involvement of five to six people in the crime, said Sinha.

The children of the deceased’s couple told police that two people entered the house while their accomplices remained outside. They first attacked Munda with a sharp weapon, killing him. When Devi tried to escape, they gave chase and murdered her too.

“The couple’s son, two daughters and five-year-old granddaughter were injured in the attack. They bear gashes in the head, legs and hands,” a Khunti police officer said on the condition of anonymity.

This was the second incident of the kind to occur in the state this week. Subhadra Devi – a septuagenarian – was killed on Thursday allegedly on the suspicion of practising witchcraft at Salgi village in Gumla district.

Jharkhand is one of India’s worst-hit states in terms of witchcraft-related murders. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed the tribal state topping the chart in this regard in 2016, with as many as 27 women being lynched. It was followed by Odisha, with 24 witchcraft-related murders.

However, such cases have declined by over 50% since 2013. According to the NCRB, Jharkhand reported 54 such murders in 2013, followed by 47 and 32 in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

An analysis of the NCRB data showed that as many as 523 women were lynched after being branded as witches between 2001 and 2016.

First Published: Jun 16, 2018 10:55 IST