The couple’s three daughters began to worry when their parents did not come home that night. The next morning they began to search for them, only to discover that they had been burnt to death for a crime that they had not committed.
Village elders had accused Mr Pandayya and his family of being responsible for the death of a young boy in the village by practising black magic. The boy had suffered a wound to the leg and despite the fact that he had been given many treatments, he died on 8 January.
The following day, the village elders brought witch doctors from the neighbouring state of Odisha (formerly Orissa) and together they accused Mr Pandayya and his family of being black magicians. The couple insisted they were not involved in any kind of black magic and told the elders that they were Christians.
However, the village elders hired men from Odisha to come to the village on the night of 13 January. In a scene of unimaginable malice, the men beat the Christian couple with sticks and took them to a nearby place where they burned them to death.
The attackers warned villagers that they would receive the same treatment if they divulged the news to anyone. Local police were later informed, however, and found eleven people guilty. They arrested seven people in connection with the incident, but the rest absconded to Odisha.
Other Christians in India have also been falsely accused of practising black magic. Pastor Sebastian Marin and two of his colleagues at a prayer centre in the city of Vasai, in Maharashtra state, were arrested on 31 January after they too were accused of witchcraft.
In 2008, a Christian leader was killed in Madhya Pradesh state when his younger brother shot an arrow through his chest, accusing him of having killed his 17-year-old daughter through black magic. Thakur Sing Bhil had come to know the Lord over two years earlier, but his extended family had resisted his conversion.
“My husband’s younger brother, Mangar Singh, had a 17-year-old daughter who died about three months ago because of ill health,” said the Christian leader’s wife, “and he blamed us for he thought that the conversion of my husband and his praying were responsible for his daughter’s death … He somehow misunderstood our belief and prayers to be black magic of some kind, and since he was always opposed to our embrace of Christianity, it further infuriated him.”