Indian beheaded in suspected ritual seeking better harvest

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NEW DELHI: Indian police are investigating whether a group of occultists beheaded a 55-year-old man in the country’s east as a sacrifice to the gods for a better harvest, an officer said Tuesday.

The decapitated body of Thepa Kharia, an unemployed man, was found inside his house on Sunday in a remote tribal village of mainly farmers in the impoverished state of Jharkhand.

Kharia’s brother has told police a group of occultists broke into the house and cut off Kharia’s head for burial in a field as part of a local ritual intended to increase crop yields and improve rainfall.

“The family says the occultists killed him for the ritual. His head is still missing,” Ajay Kumar Thakur, the officer investigating the killing in Gumla district, told AFP.

Kharia had been living alone and could have been an easy target for the occultists, who are known locally as Orkas. They have not yet been identified, Thakur said.

According to local media, villagers are too frightened of the group that roams the area before the annual monsoon rains, to come forward to police.

Human sacrifices in deeply religious and superstitious India usually occur in remote and poor areas where some people both fear and revere practitioners of so-called black magic.

The victims are often killed by “witch doctors” to please or appease deities.

Last week an alleged occultist was lynched by a mob after he beheaded a five-year-old boy to appease the Hindu goddess of power Kali in the northeastern state of Assam.

In April 2013 a court sentenced a “witch doctor” to death for beheading an 11-year-old boy in the central state of Chhattisgarh and offering the head as a sacrifice to a goddess to improve his fortunes.

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