Villagers in tribal central India have allegedly beaten 50 women with sticks and cut off their hair after accusing them of witchcraft.

A spiritual man told the villagers the assaults would protect them from evil spirits, police said.

The alleged attacks happened at a forest in a poor district of Chhattisgarh state, 250 miles from the capital Raipur.

While there are few killings in Chhattisgarh, more than 100 women are tortured, paraded naked or harassed in the state annually, officials said.

The state passed a Witchcraft (Prevention) Act in 2005 to counter a rise in witch hunts.

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