By Jatindra Dash
BHUBANESWAR, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Nine people in eastern India have been arrested for hacking to death six members of a family who they accused of practising witchcraft and making village children sick, a senior police official said on Wednesday.
The couple and their six children were asleep in their mud home in the village in Odisha's Keonjhar district when a mob armed with axes broke in and attacked them early on Monday. Two of the children survived and are being treated in hospital.
Odisha's Director General of Police Sanjeev Marik said two of the nine people arrested were relatives of the victims and had blamed them for a spate of illnesses among infants in the village.
"This heinous act is done because of the (incorrect) beliefs of people and many of these beliefs often have ulterior motives behind them," Marik told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Marik said the nine had been charged with murder and other offences under Odisha's Prevention of Witch Hunting Act.although
In a separate incident, police recovered the remains of a man who was beaten to death and burnt by a mob last week over allegations of sorcery in Odisha's Rayagada district. Ten people have been arrested.
The practice of branding men and women as witches and assaulting or killing them is still common is some parts of India, particularly among tribal communities, although it is illegal.
There were 160 cases of murders linked to witch hunts in 2013, and 119 in 2012, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
(Reporting by Jatindra Dash. Editing by Nita Bhalla. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)