Guwahati, Feb 11 (IANS): In a case of witch hunting, a 45-year-old tribal woman was burnt alive by villagers in Sivsagar district on Friday. At least 24 people have been arrested for the crime, police said.
The victim was identified as Phuleswari Halowa.
Police said villagers at Hasong Basti area of Joloha village under Sonari police station jurisdiction set the woman ablaze as they suspected she practised witch craft - a superstition prevalent in many interior areas of the State.
Prakash Sonowal, sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) of Sonari, said that police have arrested 24 people for the killing of the woman. The arrested people have confessed to their involvement, hhe added.
Sivsagar is located about 380 km away from Assam's main city Guwahati.
"The woman used to give medicines for some illness in the village. Many had taken medicines prepared by her for minor illnesses like fever. However, the villagers alleged that a youth died due to her medicines a few days back. On Thursday, she tried to give some medicines to another person of the village," Sonowal said. The person developed fever.
"The incident started on Thursday evening when she was on her way to another village to give medicines to some person. The villagers caught her and tied her to a tree with rope," he said. Then they mercilessly beat her before setting her ablaze Friday morning, he added.
Sonari, located about 30 km off Sivsagar town, is a tea belt area and there is a sizable population belonging to tea tribes and other communities in Sonari. The practice of witch hunting is common among Adivasi, tea tribes community, the Bodos and Rava communities.
Various steps has been taken both by government agencies and non-government organisations to stop the social menace but with very little success.
Assam Police had launched 'Project Prahari' for participatory development and people-friendly policing to fight social evils and deprivation. Under the project, police also launched awareness drive against witch hunting in the State's remote areas.