Mandla In what is suspected to be an act fuelled by both revenge and superstition, three members of a tribal family were murdered here in the early hours of Tuesday.
The victims include a 13-year-old girl, and an elderly woman whose head was severed and tied to a tree nearly a kilometre away.
The victims — Narbad Varkade (62), his wife Sukarti Bai (59) and Mahima (13) — had been sleeping on the terrace of their residence in Pathadei village, nearly 50 kilometres from the district headquarters in Mandla. In the morning, family members saw the bodies with their throats slit and raised an alarm. Sukarti Bai's head was missing and it was later found tied to a tree some distance away.
Varkade’s elder son Chander, who works as a daily wage labourer in Bhopal, said his cousins Khetu and Moti were behind the murders. "My father Narbad was the eldest of four brothers. Khetu is the son of my youngest uncle Dev Lal who is paralysed, while Moti is the son of another uncle Devi Singh who died twenty years ago. They accuse us of indulging in witchcraft to make their families suffer."
He said the cousins wanted to eliminate all the members of his family to usurp their share of the ancestral land.
Contrary to the family’s claim, the SP said prima facie the murders did not appear to be linked to any property dispute and the police were looking at the matter purely as a case of witchcraft-induced crime.
The victims and the suspects are members of the Gond tribe. Narbad had converted to Christianity in 2004, the only one among his brothers to do so, said Mr Rajput.
Earlier in the day, local MLA Ashok Marskole reached the house of the victims and blamed the police for failing to provide security to the people.
Former State Chief Minister and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh also raised questions about the law and order situation in Madhya Pradesh, and alleged that tribal people were being targeted.