Four members of a family including two women were killed by fellow villagers in central India’s tribal heartland over allegations of witchcraft, authorities said on Sunday.
Four elders of a tribal family, all aged in their 60s according to local media reports, were attacked by around a dozen stick-wielding villagers outside their home.
“It is linked to some local occult practitioner(s) who blamed some negative development in the tribal village to the members of this family,” said Shashi Ranjan, deputy commissioner of Jharkhand state’s Gumla district.
Gumla is a densely forested tribal-dominated region some 100km from the regional capital Ranchi.
“Additional forces have been at the Siskari village since authorities found out about the incident,” he added.
“It is peaceful but no one, not even survivors from the family, are saying anything, probably out of fear.”
The senior-most district official said no one had been arrested so far as investigations continue.
Experts say belief in witchcraft and the occult remains widespread in impoverished rural communities across India, especially in isolated tribal communities.
In the past, women have often been branded witches and targeted by locals. Some believe in the occult, or have other motives including usurping their rights over land and property.
More than 2 000 people – many of them women – were killed in India on suspicion of witchcraft between 2000 and 2012, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Some states, including Jharkhand, have introduced special laws to try to curb crimes against people accused of witchcraft and superstition.