NEW DELHI: After Assam it’s the turn of a Ranchi village now to commit tribal barbarism in the name of faith, and it’s again women who were put on the stakes.

Five women from a kanjiya Maraitoli village on the outskirts of the state capital were branded as witches and beaten to death by their own fellow villagers. Police has arrested 27 of the assailants, most of them students from local Mandar College.

The women were in their 50s and were charged of performing black-magic. The villagers’ conviction found a proof in the death of an 18 year old boy; who they said had fallen to women’s sorcery. Ranchi Deputy Commissioner Manoj Kumar said to TOI that, "Around 100 villagers armed with traditional weapons broke into five houses, dragged the women by their hair, stripped them and took them to a nearby clearing where they held an assembly before killing them."

Kumar said that usually charges of black magic are leveled against widows as a ruse to snatch their property but this time the crime was inspired by pure blind-faith. The names of slain are Rasia Khalkho, Jacinta Khalkho, Etwariya Khalkho, Mandi Bhaktain and Titri Khalkho, all residents of Kanjiya Maraitoli. Assailants used sticks, batons and stones to kill them.

A villager accused women of killing five children earlier with their black magic. The death of 18 year old Punit Khalko was the breaking point and was used by the irate villagers to avenge the deaths. "They held a meeting on Tuesday and decided to eliminate the women to stop such deaths. None of the villagers informed the police about their plans," said SSP Prabhat Kumar.

However, the family members of the deceased said that the women were innocent and were not into black-magic. Matias khalko, husband of Jacinta Khalko, said, “we begged them for mercy, but none of the assailants listened to us." Children of another victim Etwariya, had to jump the mud-wall of their house to flee the crowd as the latter pursued them after they tried to save their mother.

According to police, 50 villagers turned up at the police station to confess their crime. "Even small children claimed they had killed them. They wanted to remove the specter of death in the village and they believed that the elimination of witches was important for that," said one official.