According to police, at least 16 people were arrested on Sunday in Odisha’s Ganjam district for reportedly assaulting three members of a family on suspicion of witchcraft. Villagers suspected Bimal Nahak of practising witchcraft after at least six people died in the Chirikipada Sasan district of Polasara, 52 kilometres from Berhampur, in the previous month and a half.

Several locals allegedly assaulted the 45-year-old guy on Friday, despite his claims of innocence. When his wife and children ran to his aid, they were also attacked, according to authorities. Police raced to the scene after being alerted of the occurrence, retrieved the trio from the mob, and admitted them to the Polasara community health centre. The individual was referred to Berhampur’s MKCG Medical College and Hospital. According to police, his health is stable.

According to Polsara police station inspector in-charge Jeetendra Mallick, a case has been filed against 30 villagers. Suryamani Pradhan, a Purushottampur Sub-Divisional Police Officer, said, “We stormed the village and arrested at least 16 persons for their involvement in the incident.” He said that other suspects were being sought.

The incident took place just a day after police and other officials had created awareness against witchcraft, sources said. It was the second such incident in the district in the last one month. Angry villagers had allegedly beaten to death a 50-year old man at Ramayapalli under Chamakhandi police station limits on June 19 on the suspicion that he practised black magic.