Dozens of villagers in eastern India beat to death five women Saturday, accusing them of practicing witchcraft and blaming them for a series of misfortunes in the village, police said.
Residents of Kinjia village in Jharkhand state dragged the women out of their homes and beat them with sticks and iron rods, said Arun Kumar Singh, a deputy inspector-general of police in Ranchi, Jharkhand’s capital.
The attackers blamed the women for several accidents and misfortunes suffered by villagers, including the death of an infant in Kinjia earlier in the week, Singh said.
Police have arrested around 50 people involved in the attack, Singh said. A large number of police officers have been deployed in the village to prevent any outbreak of violence.
Jharkhand’s top elected official, Chief Minister Raghubar Das, condemned the incident. “In the age of knowledge, this incident is sorrowful. Society should ponder over it,” he said in a statement.
Superstitious beliefs persist in many parts of India and have been behind similar attacks on women in Jharkhand. From 2000 to 2012, around 2,100 people, mostly women, were killed in India on suspicion of practicing witchcraft, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Kinjia is about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Ranchi.