Superstition raises ugly head again

CHANDANAVELLI (R.R. Dist) May 29. The scourge of black magic has come visiting again in the backward districts of Telangana. This time it was accompanied by charges of theft and illicit relationship leading to the macabre death of a Scheduled Caste farm labourer.

A day after D. Narasimhulu, 35, was burnt alive in full view of the villagers of Chandanavelli in Shabad mandal, there is surprising calm in the area. He was accused of robbing sacred `mangalasutras' containing two grams of gold each belonging to four women in the SC colony few days ago and also for practicing witchcraft.

At least 11 people, including five women, dragged Narasimhulu early on Tuesday morning, tied him to a mango tree just outside the colony and after trying to extract a confession, poured kerosene and set him afire. They followed him to a distance when he tried to run and put rubber tyres, dry hay and watched him die.

However, during a visit, many villagers maintained that they were away in the farms and couldn't hear the cries of the dying man. From village elders to the younger lot everyone claims "hearing'' about the deceased resorting to black magic, but they concede that they never saw him indulging in any such activity.

None have seen him snatching the `mangalasutras' either. The accusing finger was pointed at him when a soothsayer allegedly disclosed his name. ``I was inside the house when they came and picked up an argument with my nephew. After claiming to take him to the elders, they dragged him outside the village thrashing him all the while,'' Narasimhulu's aunt Sayammma, recalls with tears.

``How can anybody accuse him of being a sorcerer? Nobody suffered because of him, it is just that everybody ganged up and killed him,'' says his sister, Nagamma.

``I was away when the incident happened. When they brought the theft matter to my notice I promised to sort it out the next day because of a marriage in my family but this tragic incident happened,'' rues Anjaiah, sarpanch.

Two of the accused women - V. Susheela and B. Shankaramma - claim not to have taken part in the murder. "Why should I instigate his killing for a mere sacred thread. After all he is my brother,'' wails Shankaramma while Susheela says, "we do not know who robbed them and we could not stop his murder.''

Balakrishna, teenaged son of prime accused Anusuya, and also charged for the murder, admits he had no knowledge of Narasimhulu practicing black magic. "I don't believe in it but my mother would not listen to me,'' says the ninth standard boy. The soothsayer, Ramulu, of a neighbouring village Hythiabad, also promptly disclaims any role. "'They sought my help but I had not named Narasimhulu,'' he cries. Clearly, the killing of Narasimhulu was planned and he was also said to have taunted the womenfolk when questioned about the theft.

Prime accused Anusuya is said to have had an illicit relationship with the deceased and both had in fact eloped once and had drifted apart in the past few months. In any case, the charges against Narasimhulu were not new because a mere nine months back he was rescued by the police when a funeral pyre was being readied for him.

He had returned to the village four months ago little to realise that death was lurking close by. The Shabad police had registered murder charges against the 11 accused including B. Anusuya, B. Lakshmamma, B. Venkatiah, B. Narasimhulu, M. Narasimhulu, B. Shankaramma, V. Satyamma, V. Ramulamma, V. Susheela, B. Balakrishna and Chandraiah and abetment charges against Ramulu.``Poverty, illiteracy and backwardness are the reasons for such crimes in this area,'' reasons Sub-Inspector P. Srinivas Reddy of Shabad police.

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