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Declared ‘witch,’ tribal man with mental disorder lynched by relatives, neighbours in Bengal town

Murmu’s wife, Sefali, 22, somehow managed to escape with her three-year-old son when local people attacked her for trying to save her husband.

kolkata Updated: Dec 09, 2017 20:14 IST
Koushik Dutta
Koushik Dutta
Hindustan Times
The wife of the victim tried to reason with the attackers but nobody listened to her, said the police. (Representative image.HT Photo)

A 28-year-old tribal youth was lynched in the Dharapara area in Bengal’s East Burdwan district on Saturday morning by his relatives and local people who alleged that the youth was a witch.

The deceased, Shibu Murmu, was suffering from some kind of mental disorder for a few months and his relatives kept telling him that his soul had been ‘taken over’ by a witch, the police found during investigation. One man was arrested and a hunt was on for several others.

Murmu’s wife, Sefali, 22, somehow managed to escape with her three-year-old son when local people attacked her as well for trying to save her husband.

Read: Jharkhand tops in witch-hunt murders, 523 women lynched between 2001-16: NCRB

The incident took place in the Guskara municipality area. “We are trying our best to create awareness among local tribal people but their superstitions run too deep. We will start an awareness campaign at Dharapara and adjoining areas once again,” said Chittajit Basu, block development officer (BDO) of Aushgram I. The Guskara municipal area is part of this block.

Witchcraft and voodoo have been an integral part of the local tribal culture for centuries. In recent years several incidents of extortion and assault, mainly on women, have taken place. Almost all the victims were declared ‘witch’ by heads of tribal communities. They were either asked to pay huge sums of money as ‘fine’ or forced to leave their home. Lynching of a man is however rare, said police officers after Saturday’s killing.

Read: 127 witch-hunting cases in Rajasthan in last 2 years, activists slam police

Around five years ago, three women from two tribal-dominated villages in West Midnapore’s Daspur area were lynched and buried on the banks of the Kasai river in an adjoining district. A kangaroo court had declared them ‘guilty’of practicing witchcraft. Similar incidents have also taken place in neigbouring Jharkhand state where the tribal population is quite large.

Police said that on Friday night Murmu was mumbling on his own when his relatives spread the word. Subal Murmu, a brother of the victim and another relative started assaulting him and alleged that Murmu was responsible for some recent mishaps in the family and the area.

Read: In struggle for education, girls of Odisha tribal community break barriers

Sefali tried to reason with the villagers, saying her husband was undergoing treatment for psychological disorder but nobody listened. The mob chased her with sticks but Shefali somehow managed to escape.

Local people claimed that when Shibu Murmu showed signs of mental disorder for the first time a local witch doctor declared that he and his wife had turned into witches.

“Soon after that my husband’s relatives and some villagers threatened to kill him,” alleged Shefali.

First Published: Dec 09, 2017 20:14 IST