As many as 200 women are lynched every year in India after being accused of practising witchcraft, a study by a charity has found.
The deaths are most prevalent in poverty-stricken villages populated by tribal groups in the northern Indian state of Jharkhand, with cases also reported in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana and Orissa.
Avdhash Kaushal, chairman of the Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra, said that most victims were single or widowed and were often targeted for their land or money.
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They are often forced to drink urine or eat excreta in public and are then paraded naked through the village. An estimated 200 are killed each year, with many more committing suicide afterwards out of shame.
Jharkhand tops the list with 50-60 witchcraft-related murders every year, followed by Andhra Pradesh, where the number is around 30, Haryana with 25-30 and Orissa with 24-28 deaths, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) chairman Avdhash Kaushal said.
According to a study conducted by RLEK, more than 2,500 women were killed in the past 15 years after being accused of practising witchcraft.
“It is very sad that women are still being killed rampantly after being declared witches. A majority of these incidents are not reported in the media,” he said, adding that a national legislation was needed to overcome the menace.
“We will soon file a writ petition in the court of law to seek a remedy in the form of legislation from Parliament on the issue,” he said.