Odisha: 11 life sentences for the murder of a tribal woman suspected of witchcraft

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A magistrate’s court in Sundargarh district of Odisha on Friday sentenced 11 men to life imprisonment, four years after killing a 50-year-old tribal woman suspected of practicing witchcraft and casting an evil spell on the village.

Supplementary District Judge-1 V Sujatha also sentenced three other women to two years rigorous imprisonment for their role in the murder.

Jasoda Singh, 50, from Ratakhandi village under Biramitrapur police station area of ​​Sundargarh district, was killed on the night of March 2, 2018. At least 15 people from the village, armed with sickles, axes and other edged weapons, reached her husband Fagu Singh’s house around 10 p.m.

They called Fagu and asked him to send his wife Jasoda as they suspected her to be a witch and the cause of all the illnesses in the village. They suspected her of having the power to change the sex of a child in the mother’s womb, which they believed was the cause of several women in the village giving birth to a girl.

The mob dragged Jasoda away and continued to assault him with sharp weapons until he died. Fagu and his son Kamalesh were also injured in the attack. Jasoda’s daughter, who came to celebrate Holi with the family, filed a first information report (FIR) against the accused.

Another woman killed, suspected of witchcraft

Meanwhile, an uneasy calm reigned in Madhurajhola village under Kabisuryanagar block of Ganjam district on Friday, a day after a 55-year-old woman was killed after informing police that locals were beating her husband for suspicion of witchcraft.

Jhunu Nahak, wife of Judhisthir Nahak, was found dead in her house on Thursday morning, hours after she was assaulted by village women who were furious that she had informed police of the assault on her husband. So far, 33 people, including 20 women, have been arrested for their role in the murder.

Ganjam Police Superintendent Vivek Saravana said police may arrest more people as several other people are believed to have been involved in the case. “We are investigating with all seriousness and no one involved in this heinous incident will be spared,” he said.

Recounting the chain of events that led to Jhunu’s murder, his sons, Jogeswar and Sagar, said their father was attacked by villagers on Tuesday after a village woman claimed he and three others were throwing bad fate, which was the reason for the death of five children in the area.

“My father suffered head injuries from the assault and filed a complaint against a youth named Gudu Nahak at the local police outpost. On Wednesday, the police summoned the youth for questioning, which resulted in tension in the village. My father then quietly left the village. The villagers then seized two other people whom they suspected of practicing witchcraft and began to beat them. Men and several women then entered our house and attacked us. My brother and I fled leaving our mother,” Sagar said.

As the two men fled the village, Jhunu’s husband reached Kabisuryanagar police outpost and informed them of the mob attacking his house. But when the police tried to reach the village, people blocked the access roads with logs. “Villagers were throwing rocks at the police while women with sharp weapons wouldn’t let the cops in. The police were able to reach the village at 2:30 a.m. and managed to persuade people to allow them entry. A few hours later, we found Judhisthir Nahak’s wife lying dead in her house,” said a police inspector who faced the mob’s fury for more than 6 hours. “It was a premeditated attack and the crowd was crying out for the blood of the family,” the official said.

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