Odisha woman sarpanch held for torture over witchcraft

Bhubaneswar, Feb 14 (IANS) A woman sarpanch (village head) was arrested for the torture of four people, three of them women, over witchcraft in Odisha's Sundergarh district, taking the total arrests in the case to four, police said Thursday.

Christina Kerketa was arrested after the victims alleged that she was part of the mob who awarded them inhuman punishment at Kiralaga village in Sundergarh, about 450 km from here.

"We have arrested the sarpanch for her involvement in the incident," R.N. Padhi, inspector in charge of the local police station, told IANS.

The barbaric incident happened Feb 11 when some residents felt sick and believed that the illness was caused by the witchcraft on them by three village women and a man.

In a kangaroo court, the villagers assaulted the three women aged between 50-55 years and the 60-year-old man, blackened their faces and paraded them naked across the street, while a villager beat a drum.

Police rushed to the spot after getting information from their sources and rescued the victims. Three people were arrested a day after the incident.

Nearly 30 policemen have been deployed in the village to prevent any untoward incident. The investigation is on. Police may apprehend some more people involved in the crime, Padhi said.

The Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC) suo moto took cognizance of the incident and directed the authorities to submit a report on it.

The brutalities related to witchcraft, mainly against women, are common in interior, illiterate tribal pockets of the state.

Women accused of witchcraft are often killed or paraded naked.

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