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Suicide surge blamed on demons in India village, science thinks differently

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Central India’s Khargone district (Flickr)

At least 80 people have taken their own lives in a small village in central India since the beginning of the year. The village’s new leader, whose predecessor also killed himself, blames the suicidal surge on “demonic presence” but researchers beg to differ.     

The village of Badi in Khargone district elected Rajendra Sisodiya as their new head after his cousin Jeevan hanged himself in his own backyard. Sisodiya, whose mother and brother also killed themselves, said each of the village’s 320 families have lost at least one family member to suicide.

“This is a very grave situation and we need to act fast. The villagers lack confidence and motivation and it's very important to counsel them,” said Ashok Verma, the official tasked with looking into the suicides.

According to Srikanth Reddy, a psychiatrist, the deaths are most probably linked to depression and schizophrenic episodes resulting from excessive use of pesticides on cotton crops, which the villagers heavily depend on for a living.

“Depression isn't something people here are easily able to relate to or identify. When they are unable to find any reason, they associate it with locally explainable phenomena like demonic presence,” RT quoted Reddy as saying in a Saturday report.

“In a study some years ago in China, where a large number of farmers in a particular area were committing suicide, it was found that insecticides used there contained organophosphate, which is highly toxic and causes depressive mental conditions,” he noted.

Khargone is officially listed as one of India’s most backwards and improvised districts. Earlier in the year, a seven-year-old local boy was reportedly forced to marry a dog as his horoscope showed that his first wife would suffer an early demise.

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