Three members of an Indian family have been burnt to death after a mob locked them in their house and set it on fire following rumours of their involvement in human sacrifices.
Ten men have been arrested over the incident in underdeveloped Jharkhand state when hundreds of villagers armed with sticks and other sharp weapons targeted the family, an officer said.
“There was a rumour that they had kidnapped children for sacrifice, which was followed by an attack,” said Kartik S, police chief of Lohardaga district where the incident happened.
Five other family members were rescued from the burning house in Lohardaga, 75 kilometres (46 miles) from the eastern state’s capital Ranchi.
Kartik said the head of the family, Gowardhan Bhagat, had been accused by locals of being a sorcerer.
According to local media reports, Bhagat had been jailed many years ago, allegedly for beheading someone, fuelling fears of his involvement in ritual killings.
“We don’t have any evidence that he kidnapped children for sacrifice now,” Kartik said, adding that police were investigating if the attack was orchestrated because of a personal grudge against Bhagat.
Some 2,097 people, mostly women, were killed in India between 2000 to 2012 after being branded witches, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
Some states including Jharkhand have introduced special laws to try to curb crimes against people accused of witchcraft.
There are also occasional reports of human sacrifices in rural and remote areas.
On Monday Delhi police rescued a kidnapped four-month-old girl and arrested three men including the infant’s uncle who had allegedly sold her to a sorcerer for sacrifice.
A suspected occultist last year beheaded a five-year-old boy in a ritual sacrifice in northeastern India before being lynched by angry villagers.