A woman has been tortured and beaten to death by her in-laws in central India on suspicion of being a witch and practicing black magic, police said Monday.
Police in the central state of Chhattisgarh said relatives attacked the 55-year-old widow on Sunday after claiming her witchcraft had caused her nephew's ill health.
"Chilli powder was put in her eyes, ears and private parts and they thrashed her severely, because of which she died," Narendra Khare, Bemetara district police chief, said.
The district is 125 kilometers west of the state capital Raipur.
Khare said the victim's brother-in-law, his wife and other relatives of her late husband confronted her over the sick boy, demanding that she reverse whatever "black magic" had caused the illness.
When she protested her innocence, the relatives attacked her with sticks and punched and kicked her in front of her 28-year-old son. He later took her to hospital where she was declared dead.
Twelve people, including the brother-in-law and five women, have been arrested over the incident, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
In a separate case in the state, police said that at least three people died Sunday after a "witch doctor" offered them herbs laced with snake venom.
"The villagers consumed some herbs offered by a witch doctor, who claimed the herbs had power to withstand scorpion and snake bites," Gurjinder Pal Singh, a senior state police official, said.
"After consuming poisonous substances at least three villagers were killed and 70 were taken ill, many of them are seriously," he added.
No arrests have been made.
Belief in witchcraft and the occult remains widespread in some impoverished and tribal-dominated areas of India, leading to crimes mainly against women.
In some cases women are stripped naked as punishment, burnt alive or driven from their homes and killed.
In July villagers in the eastern state of Bihar — one of India's most underdeveloped — killed a woman whom they accused of being a witch. AFP