FOLLOWING a report that three unrelated deaths linked to witchcraft had occurred this month alone in the West Singhbhum district of India comes news that an Indian witch doctor who beheaded an 11-year-old boy and offered the head as a sacrifice to a goddess to improve his fortunes has been sentenced to death.
A local court in Chhattisgarh state in central India convicted 32-year-old Dilip Rathia on Monday of murder and sentenced him to hang for beheading the boy.
The investigating officer in the case, Praful Thakur, said:
We proved the man beheaded the boy and his head was offered to the local goddess to obtain better luck.
The case, which highlights the persistence of occult beliefs in remote areas, came to light when police found the child’s headless skeleton in the tribal-dominated village of Barpali in Raigarh district, 195 kilometres (121 miles) northeast of state capital Raipur.
Forensic tests proved the skeleton was that of an 11-year-old boy named Praveen who disappeared in February 2012 while visiting a village fair.
Police, acting on a tip-off, raided the home of a man said by locals to be a witch doctor where they found the child’s head.
The man was “practising witchcraft” and “was convicted on charges of murder, hiding evidence and giving false information to conceal the offence”, local police official Rahul Bhagat said.
Human sacrifices in deeply religious and superstitious India usually occur in poorer areas where some people fear and revere practitioners of so-called black magic. The victims are ritually killed by witch doctors to please or appease deities.
In a recent widely-publicised case of suspected child sacrifice, the bodies of a two-year-old boy and a six-year-old girl were found at a home in the industrial town of Bhilai in Chhattisgarh in November 2010.
Seven months before that, the decapitated body of a factory worker was found in a temple in the eastern state of West Bengal.
The first of the three witchcraft related death in April was that of 55-year old Rajnigandha Mukhi who died after cutting a major vein in her leg during a ritual meant to appease the gods. Mukhi, who had been intending to offer only a little blood, bled so profusely the neighboring villagers were not able to carry her body and she died almost immediately in her home.
Then 45-year-old Donga Tamsai was decapitated by her nephew for allegedly practicing witchcraft. The attacker then hid the body of his aunt in the nearby jungle.
Just one day later in the neighboring town of Manjhari a woman named Sini Kui’s was attacked by family members who beat and decapitated her, again for allegedly practicing witchcraft.