5 including women murdered, buried secretly

Police exhume bodies from two sites lWitchcraft allegations in GH

Police personnel, others at site where the five murdered villagers were buried. (ST)

TURA: In a shocking discovery by police, bodies of five persons from two families, including an elderly woman, have been recovered from two graves in a village under Rongram development block on Monday after they were murdered in cold blood by villagers over allegations of practising witchcraft.
According to a report received on Tuesday, the murders reportedly occurred in the first week of January, this year, inside Mrigre village, 5 kms from Rongram, and were hushed up by the villagers until West Garo Hills police discovered the crime while investigating a missing person’s report made to them by a relative of the deceased.
“We received a complaint about a person from the village having gone missing and while probing the case discovered the murders of people from two families,” said district police chief Mukesh Kr Singh while speaking to The Shillong Times.
Following intense questioning by police and recording of statements from as many as sixty villagers’ police were led to two sites where the bodies had been buried.
In the presence of a magistrate, two doctors and police officers, the five bodies were exhumed on Monday for an inquest.
According to police, all five victims were found with their hands tied behind their backs and their bodies bore bluish marks and patches indicating they had suffered fatal injuries caused by blunt objects.
The murdered victims included the head of the family Hedison B Marak (60) and his son David Maxeneir T Sangma (45). David was a school teacher in Oragitok village.
Another family head identified as Hallen T Sangma along with his wife Bala T Sangma (both 50 years) and their son Washing T Sangma (30) were meted out the same treatment and murdered by the villagers.
Following the police discovery and exhuming of the bodies for an autopsy it was handed over to the relatives for a proper burial on the same day.
“We have registered a case of murder and arrests will take place,” said district police chief Mukesh Singh despite attempts by the villagers to  shield those involved in the cold blooded murders.
When questioned by police many of the villagers tried to shield the suspects by refraining from naming any individual of having a direct hand in the killings all the while claiming that the lynching was done by the entire village.
Some of the villagers reportedly tried to even justify the killings by claiming that the inhabitants have for long been witnessing a spell of “bad luck”.
This is probably the first shocking mass murder of villagers over allegations of practising witchcraft in the Garo Hills region in recent memory. Garo Hills has for long been free of the menace that has been plaguing the neighbouring state of Assam for the last couple of years, particularly in the Bodoland region.
Similar cases have also surfaced in the Khasi Hills region of the state but the scale of the recent murders near Rongram, not far from Tura, has sent a chilling reminder about the lack of awareness on superstition that continues to plague the rural population.