NEW DELHI: Two men have been arrested in central India for allegedly killing a 7-year-old girl and cutting out her liver in a ritual sacrifice to ensure a better harvest, police said Monday.
Lalita Tati disappeared in October and her dismembered remains were found a week later, Rajendra Narayan Das, a senior police officer in the Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh, told The Associated Press.
Police arrested two men, both poor farmers, last week and they told police they killed the girl to appease their gods and get a better harvest, Das said.
Tati was walking home after watching television at a neighbor’s house when she was kidnapped, Das said. The two men confessed to cutting her open and removing her liver as an offering.
Das said the police had gathered enough evidence, apart from the confessions, to charge the two with murder. They would face life in prison or even the death sentence if convicted.
The men were described as “tribals,” a term referring to the region’s indigenous people, most of whom remain mired in poverty and illiteracy.
Human sacrifices are rare but get prominent attention every few years. A deep belief in traditional healers, or witch doctors, is common in mostly tribal Chhattisgarh
People today consider child sacrifice to be a primitive and barbaric ritual. However, it is a fact that child sacrifice was a common practice in the ancient world. It was even practiced by some people in Israel (Judg. 11:30-31, 39; 1 Kings 16:34).
In the ancient world, child sacrifice was a ritual in which the worshiper offered to the gods a most precious gift, one’s own child.
In his book Human Sacrifice in History and Today (New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1981), p. 15, Nigel Davies, wrote that human sacrifice was a “killing with a spiritual or religious motivation, usually, but not exclusively, accompanied by ritual . . . performed in a sacred place or one that had been made sacred for the occasion.”
Ancient people believed that the gift of the first born or one’s own child was the highest gift one could give to the gods. In some situations, as in case of war, the sacrifice of one’s son was considered a necessity if victory was to be achieved against the enemy.
One clear example of child sacrifice as a means to achieve victory against an enemy is seen in the case of Mesha, the king of Moab, in his war against the army of Israel:
“When the king of Moab saw that the battle was going against him, he took with him seven hundred swordsmen to break through, opposite the king of Edom; but they could not. Then he took his firstborn son who was to succeed him, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And great wrath came upon Israel, so they withdrew from him and returned to their own land” (2 Kings 3:26-27).
The king of Moab recognizing that he was about to lose the war, in his terrible predicament, made the supreme sacrifice of his firstborn son as an offering to his god. The people of Israel were highly impressed that the king had made the supreme sacrifice by offering his son to his god. As a result, the army of Israel was so filled with fear of the great wrath that Chemosh, the god of Moab, would bring upon them, that they gave up the victory that was theirs to win and withdrew in fear to their own land, believing that they would lose the war.
The sacrifice of children in the ancient world, as in this case in India, was based on the belief that something special was being given to god in exchange for a special favor. In the case of the sacrifice of the girl in India, those who sacrificed her expected a better harvest from their gods.
It is sad that violence against children, specially violence against girls, occurs all over the world. This type of violence against powerless children is evidence of the depths of depravity human beings display when they are disconnected from the true God.
In their desire to please their gods, people today are still asking the same questions that were asked many years ago:
“What should I bring before the LORD when I come to bow before God on high? Should I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves? . . . Should I give my firstborn for my transgression, the child of my body for my own sin?” (Mic. 6:6-7 HCSB).
The answer is no: “Faithful love is what pleases me, not sacrifice; knowledge of God, not burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6). And the requirements to please God remain the same: “O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love loyalty, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8).
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary