KUNO (SHEOPUR): Members of Sahariya tribe, living outside Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, have branded over a half dozen kids with iron rods, heated nails and incense sticks in a medieval belief that it will rid them of a mysterious disease that has spread in the area.

Tribal population living in this part of Madhya Pradesh still follow traditional (often primitive) methods of treatment for ailments even as state's medical facilities have failed to reach them or instill confidence about its effectiveness among them.

Children from Tiktoli village, around 8 km from the sanctuary in Sheopur district, were subjected to this treatment to relieve them of their fever and stomach ache.

Sahariya tribe living here is categorized in the primitive tribal groups(PTG) and about 30 tribal families are living in the area and several children aged three to six are suffering from a mysterious ailment.

Chandni, 3, is among the victims, who was branded and has six burns over her body. "Hospital is far away from this place. She has a severe stomach ache, she got relief after being treated with hot iron," said her father Birbal. The village is located around 30 km from the district hospital and health authorities are unaware of outbreak of any disease here.

Another four-year-old girl was branded with hot iron rod nine times on her abdomen as she was suffering from high fever. Burns are visible on
her body.

Government officials do admit that tribal population believes in often inhuman and cruel traditional customs that have been prevalent for ages. "They rely more on medieval practice", said an officer. He also pleaded ignorance about the outbreak of any disease in the area.

"The children are already suffering from a disease and on top of that they are subjected to branding. This may result in additional pain besides permanent psychological and physical wounds on the young mind," said Ranjeet Singh Phalke, a social activist. Sheopur district collector Gyaneshwar Patil could not be contacted despite several attempts.