It is unclear if the child was alive when she was pulled out of the pond. (Representational)
When a three-year-old went missing from her house at a village in Sunderbans of West Bengal this afternoon, a massive hunt was launched. Villagers waded into the pond behind the girl's house, and found the child in it.
However, instead of rushing the child to the hospital, about 5 kilometres away, the villagers started performing superstitious rituals to drive away the 'pond spirit', which they believed had pulled her into the water.
It is still unclear if the child, Tajmira Khatoon, was alive when she was pulled out from the pond in Bhangokhali village.
A man held the girl over his head and shook her body while another chanted some spells. Meanwhile, women beat the water to drive away the spirit. Someone also massaged the child's chest but when she did not respond, the villagers finally took her to hospital where she was declared dead.
"We have seen our elders do it, so we also tried to do it and save the girl's life," said Ataur Sheikh, a resident.
Another man who chanted some spells said, "I know someone who had drowned and come back to life after we beat the water and chanted mantras."
While most villagers defended their actions, one school-going girl who had witnessed part of the incident said the child had died because of superstition and ignorance.
"If they had only rushed the girl to hospital, she may have lived. It was shocking. So many people doing such superstitious things. It was horrific," said Susmita Gayen.