LUCKNOW, India, July 30, 2009 (AFP) - A rural Indian witch doctor beheaded a five-year-old girl as part of a bizarre ritual to help a villager produce healthy male heirs, police said Thursday.
Vandana Kumari was murdered on Tuesday in Lakhimpur Kheri district, 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the Uttar Pradesh state capital Lucknow, police officer Ravi Srivastava told AFP by telephone.
Occult practitioner Mewalal Chauhan recommended the "human sacrifice" when the child"s neighbour Ram Niwas came to him for help, Srivastava said.
"Ram Niwas had sons but none of them survived infancy. His brother too was ailing. The 'tantrik' Chauhan said a human sacrifice was necessary to get rid of these problems," Srivastava said.
The witch doctor, his male assistant and Niwas lured the little girl into a field where Chauhan cut off her head after prayers and rituals, the police officer said.
Police said they recovered the child's headless body after her mother reported her missing, and had detained the three men.
Belief in black magic is common among superstitious rural Indians. Many families in India value male heirs for their breadwinning potential, and sons are needed to light their parents' funeral pyres under Hindu rites.