As many as 29 residents, including 22 women, of Gopapur village under Khallikote police station in Odisha’s Ganjam district were arrested on Tuesday night for their alleged involvement in torture of six persons, aged between 55 and 65 years, over suspicion of witchcraft.The arrested persons claimed the victims were witchcraft practitioners who were responsible for diseases and deaths in Gopapur.“On the night of September 30, eight teeth of each victim were uprooted and they were forced to eat human excreta. They were also beaten up and forcibly restrained at a community hall in the village,” said Sub-Divisional Police Officer Utkal Keshari Dash. On October 1, after receiving information about the incident, a police team reached the village to rescue the victims but faced stiff opposition from the villagers who threw chilli powder and stones at them.“The police managed to rescue the victims and admitted them to MKCG Medical College and Hospital in Berhampur. Later, the accused persons were rounded up and arrested,” said inspector-in-charge of Khallikote police station Satyaranjan Pradhan.Tensions gripped Gopapur two weeks ago after some villagers suddenly fell sick and three of them died. The villagers alleged some sorcery practitioners were causing the ailments and deaths. On September 28, more persons fell ill and the villagers started collecting money to call up a sorcerer to identify the alleged witchcraft practitioners. The same day, the Ganjam district administration and the police tried to intervene and make the villagers see reason.Medical teamOn September 30, a medical team from MKCG Medical College and Hospital reached the village to take blood samples of the inhabitants for tests and treat the sick. But these measures failed to convince the villagers who rounded up the six victims, based on details given by the sorcerer, and tortured them. The victims were all men in their late 50s and 60s.