Indian shaman 'poisons women in witchcraft test'

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An Indian shaman who allegedly forced women to drink a potion to prove they were not witches has been arrested.

Nearly 30 women fell ill after they were rounded up in Shivni village in central Chhattisgarh state on Sunday and made to drink the herbal brew.

A senior police officer told the BBC that six villagers had also been arrested.

Witch hunts targeting women are common in east and central India, and a number of accused are killed every year.

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The witch doctor said that after drinking the brew, the real witch would voluntarily confess”

End Quote Rajesh Joshi Police spokesman

Most of the cases take place in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar.

Police spokesman Rajesh Joshi told the BBC that an 18-year-old villager was accused of witchcraft because she had been unwell.

"Her father Sitaram Rathod and other villagers suspected that it [her illness] could be due to an evil spell cast by a witch," Mr Joshi said.

"They [the villagers] called for an ojha [witch doctor] to ward off the spell."

Authorities said the shaman, named as Bhagwan Deen, had been helped by a few other residents as he rounded up nearly all the adult women in the centre of the village.

He concocted the potion test after conducting rituals which failed to expose the alleged witch.

"The shaman then forced the women to consume a drink that he had made out of a local poisonous herb," Mr Joshi said. "He said that after drinking the brew, the real witch would voluntarily confess."

Of the nearly 30 women taken to hospital after the incident, around 25 women have since been discharged.

But police said five remained in hospital, including a 70-year-old woman who was in a serious condition.

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