The abandoned room at the Kanjia assembly point bears witness to the barbaric murder of five middle-aged women accused of being witches and practicing black magic resulting in the death of a 17 year-old boy, in Kanjia village of eastern Jharkhand state. (AFP Photo)
New Delhi: As he recovers in a children's shelter in eastern India, 17-year-old Ganita Munda is haunted by the sound of his family's screams as a witch-hunting gang killed them in their home.
The teenager remembers breaking free of the attackers and fleeing his rural village home in Orissa state to a nearby forest where he hid alone in the dark for hours.
"I shouldn't be here. I still don't know how I managed (to survive)," Ganita told AFP of the July attack that left his parents and four of his brothers and sisters dead, including one as young as three.
The knife-wielding villagers targeted the family because Ganita's mother had been branded a witch, blamed for a recent outbreak of illness among local children.
The attack is one of many recorded every year in deeply superstitious rural India, and authorities have been criticised for failing to curb the problem.
A mob of villagers chanting "kill the witch" attacked Ganita's family in a remote and impoverished area of Orissa state where the belief in black magic is prevalent.
"They blamed her for casting evil spells on young children who were ill," said Ganita, whose nine-year-old brother Shambhunath also survived.
"I somehow wriggled out of their grip," Ganita said from the home in Keonjhar district where he is recovering from a knife wound to the stomach sustained during the attack.
Around 160 murders linked to witchcraft were recorded in 2014 across 13 of India's states, 32 of them in Orissa, according to the latest government figures. The numbers have remained steady in recent years, with about 2,300 people, mostly women, killed in such attacks since 2000.