Ranchi (Jharkhand): Five women were killed by locals at Kanjia village in Ranchi district for allegedly practising 'witchcraft' in yet another barbaric incident related to superstition in the tribal state.
Superintendent of Police (Rural) Raj Kumar Lakra said a group of villagers used lathis and sharp edged weapons to kill the women at around midnight.
They suspected the women of practising witchcraft, police said. The bodies were recovered on Saturday.
Jharkhand accounted for 54 out of 160 cases of murders where women were branded witches and killed in 2013 and a total of 400 women have been murdered with the same motive since 2001 in the state.
The National Crime Records Bureau has estimated 2,097 such murders between 2000 and 2012 in the country.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das condemned the incident. "In the age of knowledge, this incident is sorrowful. The society should ponder over it," Das said in a statement.
Jharkhand State Women's Commission condemned the killing and pitched for a strong policy for women to stop such incidents.
Expressing grief at the killing of five women, Jharkhand State Women’s Commission Chairperson (JSWC) Mahua Manjhi said, "Lack of education, road connectivity to towns and cities, unemployment and awareness are some of the reasons behind 'dayan bisahi' (superstition of witchcraft)."
Condemning the incident, she said soon after she took over as the head of the JSWC, two years ago, the commission speeded up shaping the 'pending policy for women' but it could not be enacted due to election model code of conduct in 2014.
"The policy for women was taken up by the then Hemant Soren Cabinet but could not be enacted following the model code of conduct. Even now it can be taken forward, enacted and implemented to prevent such incidents," Manjhi said.
The author-chairperson said the policy for women had several points, including eradicating medieval beliefs and human trafficking.
Wicked people spread rumours to usurp land of a widow or conspire against a woman seeking to contest panchayat elections, she said, narrating her visit to Simdega jail where three accused were lodged in connection with ‘witchcraft’.
Stating that she would visit Kanjia village in a couple of days, Manjhi shared her experiences as to how some people had resisted the visits of JSWA team in the past, which had led to tension in the areas after such incidents.
She said teachers should focus on teaching instead of cooking midday meals in schools to genuinely promote literacy in villages.