PATNA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A 35-year-old woman in Bihar was dragged out of her home, beaten and forced to eat human faeces by a group of villagers in the latest attack linked to accusations of witchcraft, police said on Wednesday.
Eleven people in Katihar district attacked the woman on Tuesday while her husband was away, police said. She told police they accused her of causing the death of a 30-year-old villager who died from an illness last week.
Police said the woman, who is from a lower caste or “Dalit” community in Sakrail village, was slapped, punched and force-fed faeces.
“The villagers dragged the woman out of her house and made her consume human excreta, blaming her for the death of the man,” Katihar sub-divisional police official Rakesh Kumar told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
“The victim told us the accused persons branded her a witch and said it is because of her that everyone in the village was falling sick.”
Police arrested a 60-year-old male villager and charged him with physical assault and wrongful restraint, and are looking for 10 other suspects, Kumar said.
Earlier this month, a 22-year-old man was arrested in the state of Odisha and charged with the murder of a couple he suspected of witchcraft. He accused the 65-year-old man and his wife, 60, of being responsible for the deaths of his sister and two brothers who had died from various diseases over the previous three years.
The practice of accusing people, mostly women, of being witches and assaulting or killing them is still common is some parts of India, particularly among tribal communities, although it is illegal.
A United Nations official said last year that archaic practices such as lynching women accused of witchcraft, honour killings and dowry murders persisted in India because they remained socially acceptable.
Government statistics show there were 160 cases of murder linked to witch hunts in 2013, and 119 in 2012.
Writing by Nitah Bhalla, Editing by Tim Pearce