Nearly four years after the discovery of the victim’s headless body at a Hindu temple perplexed officer, Indian police have arrested five men accused of carrying out a human sacrifice.
Shanti Shaw, 64, was killed and decapitated with a machete after visiting the temple in Guwahati, India’s remote northeast, in 2019.
Police made no progress in the case until Shaw’s body was identified in January, sparking a new investigation that led to the arrest of several suspects, with others still at large.
“The five planned the woman’s murder,” Guwahati police commissioner Diganta Barah told reporters late Tuesday. “A total of 12 people participated.”
According to Barah, the alleged ringleader, Pradeep Pathak, 52, planned the killing as part of a religious right to commemorate his brother’s death anniversary.
“The accused evidently believed that the sacrifice would appease the deceased’s soul,” he added.
Pathak and four other people were apprehended between March 25 and April 1, and police are still looking for their remaining seven accomplices.
Between 2014 and 2021, India’s National Crime Records Bureau reported 103 cases of human sacrifice in the country.
Ritual killings are usually carried out to appease deities and are more common in tribal and remote areas where witchcraft and the occult are widely believed.
Last year, two men were arrested in New Delhi for allegedly killing a six-year-old boy.
The perpetrators, both construction workers, told police they killed the child as an offering to the Hindu god Shiva in order to become wealthy.