LOHARDAGA: Villagers of Lavagain allegedly lynched their pahan ( tribal priest), Sushil Oraon, 60, and his wife Jhibi Oraon, 55, on Thursday night.
The couple was accused of not selecting the successor priest of the village for past several years even as tribal tradition demanded that the pahan be changed every three years.
More than 50 male members of the village attacked Sushil's house, forcefully took the couple to masana (place where bodies of tribals are cremated) and beat them to death using traditional arms. Police personnel headed by Kisko police station in-charge Munu Tudu had to face protest of villagers on Friday morning when the bodies were sent for autopsy and then handed over to family that cremated them late evening. A police picket has been set up in the village, about 7 km from Kisko police station.
Villagers who were involved in the murder have left the village while women have come forward saying that they are the killers and not the male members of their families.
Police have lodged an FIR against 10 named and 25 other villagers under several sections of the IPC and Prevention of Witch Practice Act. SP Jitendra Kumar Singh said that he had issued strict orders to arrest every villager behind the killing.
Singh and DC Ratan Kumar met villagers on Saturday but they were rigid and expressed no repentance over the incident. "Sushil had neglected selection of his successor for about 15 years even though pahan has to change in every three years. "Defiance of the act was affecting our traditional rituals from birth to marriage. When we attempted to change it, Sushil used to threaten us of killing by black magic," said Rekha Devi, a woman attending meeting with the DC and SP.
"The villagers are fully under the grip of superstition despite some of them being educated. Police, block administration and elected panchayat representatives have been put on alert to normalize the situation," the DC said.
In the past one year, Lohardaga has witnessed several cases of witchcraft attacks and killings, including at least seven cases registered in Senha, Bhandra, Kairo, Kuru, Kisko and Town police stations.