Villagers in India behead woman for 'witchcraft'

The death of the elderly woman involved at least seven suspects, including two women, who have been arrested for her murder.

By Elizabeth Shim

CALCUTTA, India, July 21 (UPI) -- Villagers in India dragged a 63-year-old woman from her home and beheaded her for suspected "witchcraft" in the impoverished northeast region of Assam.

Pumi Orang is one of nearly 90 Indians, mostly women, who have been decapitated, burnt alive or stabbed to death in Assam for sorcery in the last six years, the BBC reported Tuesday.


Villagers resorted to violence when they believed Pumi was bringing bad luck to them and blamed her for people falling ill, The Washington Post reported.

The woman's death involved at least seven suspects, including two women, who have been arrested for her murder, but around 200 people reportedly participated in the witch hunt.

The slaying, which took place in front of the woman's family, involved weapons like machetes, according to local reports.

One 35-year-old woman, Anima Ronghanti, who claimed to be a "goddess" had told a gathering at a nearby temple that Pumi was a witch.

Many were convinced of the claim, including an unidentified villager who told local Indian television that Pumi "was a witch and had cast evil spells on her enemies."


But scholar Rakesh K. Singh said in a 2011 study the attacks happen in areas where there is "almost no economic development" and superstitious beliefs are used to explain tragedies such as a bad crop, diseases and the drying of wells.

The victim also was a member of an ethnic group uprooted from its homeland by the British during colonial times to work on Assam's tea plantations. Pumi was an ethnic Adivasi and the population has been the target of mob violence for years, the Post reported.

The crime is one of thousands in India in the past decade involving accusations of sorcery.

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