A 55-year-old woman's bloodsoaked dead body was found just outside her mud house in a tribal village in Jharkhand on February 24. Inside her house, on a wooden cot lied the body of her husband, Nikodim, 60.
Just in the next room, three more corpses piled on top of one another were lying. It included the dead bodies of his son Vincent, 35, their daughter-in-law Silvanti, 30, and their grandson Albin,5.
In Buruhatu-Amtoli Pahar village in Jharkhand, several people and cattle have died in the past four months. To know the reason behind these deaths, when nearly 100 locals dragged the village priest and healer, Mathura Topno, to a temple and asked for some names in a Gram sabha gathering, he gave them some random names. The next morning the villagers found the dead bodies.
The tribals believe that some "evil" has invaded the village.
The family had been hacked to death with axes at night. One of the killers, Salim Topno, later boasted about the heinous act and said it was all done in 3 minutes, reported The Times Of India.
The villagers who agreed to speak about this heinous killing said that "black magic" had disrupted their lives.
Birendra Surin, mukhiapati of Sarita, the panchayat under which the village lies, said, "The villagers believed Sarna (the presiding animist deity) had been angered".
The 500-year-old tribal village is home to 80 odd families. The village has an ancient ritual of getting dotted with Pathalgarhi, or stone slabs, in honour of the dead.
Most families in the village practise animism. Some of them follow Christianity, and some are Hindu. Most of the families have small patches of land and others are migrant labourers. Many of these villagers have returned back after Covid-19 and there are limited prospects for their employment.
Amrit Topno, 30, who is Nikodim's nephew, is one among the returnees. Amrit, who lives in a house just across the street with his wide, has been named as a killer in Nikodim's death.
When the bodies were taken for autopsy, Amrit offered to assist the police in the investigation. However, days later, he was named as one of the accused.
Amrit is among those eight people who have been arrested so far in this case. Along with him, Soma (25), Sunil (30), Philip (55), Phirangi (45), Sawan (34), Daniel (40) and Salim (25) were also arrested.
Around seven years ago, Salim had been arrested for killing two women after claiming them to be witches. He tied their bodies to a bike and dragged them to the railway tracks, leaving behind the corpses there.
Except for Daniel and Philip, all those involved in the killing are distant relatives of one another. They have been charged with murder, rioting, unlawful assembly and criminal conspiracy.