GUWAHATI, April 18 (IANS): An elderly tribal woman was found hacked to death and buried by a stream in Assam, the fourth such incident since Friday in what police suspect to be linked to black magic and witchcraft.
A police spokesperson said Monday that the body of Sarla Brahma, 50, was found buried under a mound of sand close to a stream near Samsaibari village in Kokrajhar district, about 220 km from here.
"Some people called out my wife around midnight Sunday and when I came out there was no one around," a shocked Nipon Brahma, the woman's husband, told IANS.
"The woman was hit by some crude objects on her head and face, and then buried," Jadav Pegu, magistrate investigating the incident, said.
Daneswar Goyarai, executive member of the Bodoland Territorial Council, a local administrative body, said: "This is a clear case of black magic and superstitious beliefs."
Three women in their 50s were hacked to death in separate incidents in the same district in the past four days. Two cousins were killed Friday night and another woman was hacked to death Saturday.
Local people said the killings were driven by superstitious beliefs.
According to Goyarai, "There was no personal enmity and the families were very poor with no property."
Black magic, witchcraft and superstitious beliefs have been part of the tribal customs in parts of Assam, Tripura and other northeastern states.
Many tribal communities practice indigenous faiths and resort to such rituals in treating ailments.
At least 200 people have been killed during the past five years for allegedly practising sorcery and witchcraft, mostly in tribal-dominated areas of western and northern Assam.
"Most of these cases are inspired by superstitions and this is indeed a big problem for us," Inspector General of Police Kula Saikia told IANS.
The police have intensified their special drive to curb this phenomenon.
Codenamed Project Prahari (Vigilant), the project includes community policing, besides conducting regular awareness campaigns among tribal chiefs and village elders.
"The battle against witch hunting is a challenging task for the security forces. There should be a concerted campaign by civil society groups, legal fraternity and the law enforcing agencies," said Saikia, who heads Project Prahari.
"Simply enforcing the law and punishing the guilty are inadequate. There has to be an attitudinal change," he added.