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Children killed to appease goddess

Two toddlers whose bodies were found in India's Orissa state were killed to propitiate the Hindu goddess Kali, police say.

NEW DELHI // Two toddlers whose bodies were found on May 18 in Orissa state were killed to propitiate the Hindu goddess Kali, police say. Sahadev Mahanandiya, 5, and Biju Kisalia, 3, were found with their throats slit in a jungle near the tribal-dominated area of Bisamkatak, in Rayagada district of the eastern state of Orissa. Police earlier believed the motive for the killing was a family feud but later said two suspects in custody had confessed that the children were "sacrificed" to appease the goddess.

Bonda Kariya, who belongs to the Domb tribe, and his 15-year-old son, Koila, allegedly lured the children to a nearby forest with the promises of juicy mangos and then slit their necks with a knife, police said. The suspects were arrested after the parents of the children lodged a missing complaint. During their interrogation they confessed, said Ramesh Chandra Bisoi, the investigating officer. The suspects were charged with murder and destroying evidence, as they allegedly tried to bury the knife, a pot and the children's bodies.

The incident comes less than two weeks after a man beheaded his 10-year-old granddaughter in the hope it would provide him with a bumper crop. According to villagers, Mr Kariya, a shepherd, was a devotee of the 10-armed goddess Kali and believed in black magic. Police also said Mr Kariya was owed money by Sahadev's father. "He wanted to take revenge on one of the family members as Sahadev's father, Kartik Mahanandiya, owed him 500 rupees [Dh36] which he failed to repay, so he chose his son for the sacrifice," said Mr Bisoi, the police officer.

Koila told police his father had also drunk the two children's blood. Rights groups said they have seen a revival of child sacrifices in the tribal areas of Orissa in recent years. Last month, Rajesh Hembram used an axe to behead his 10-year-old granddaughter after a Hindu priest told him that sowing seeds mixed with her blood would yield a bumper crop. Police said Mr Hembram, 52, who had three acres of agricultural land, killed the girl and drained her blood into a pot on Akshaya Tritya, a day considered auspicious by Hindus. Police recovered a pot that contained seeds mixed with blood and the girl's body.

Child and human sacrifices have long been a part of tribal culture in Orissa state. About a dozen cases of child sacrifice take place each year, both reported and unreported, rights groups said. Critics accuse the administration of covering up some cases to try to play down its prevalence in the state. About 64 indigenous tribal groups exist in different parts of Orissa, with most having pre-medieval traditions, culture and customs. They worship dozens of gods and goddesses. One tribe, the Sabara, even has a god for toothaches.

Mangla Prasad Mohanty, a professor of culture studies at Uttkal University of Culture in Bhubaneswar, the capital of Orissa, said sacrifices have been part of tribal tradition for hundreds of years. He said tribes such as the Konda, who are farmers, sacrificed adults to please Mother Earth for a better harvest. "Kondas are a small community and every family used to take turns to sacrifice a male member during the sowing season."

Ranjana Kumari, a child rights activist, said sacrifices are extreme forms of brutality. "Such incidents are barbaric and the perpetrators should be dealt with an iron fist. "We should not term human killings as sacrifice. It legitimises the act of brutality." jandrabi@thenational.ae