Women Killed in Witch-Hunts Across Several States in India

Witch Hunts India

Adding to the horrifying numbers of women who are killed in witch-hunts across several Indian states, another such case was reported by the BBC on October 27. According to police officials in Chattisgarh, Dukalheen Bai died after her own relatives stripped, beat and tortured her for hours because they suspected her of practicing witchcraft.

Bai’s brother-in-law Nakul Patel accused her of bringing illness to his son and soon her entire family of 10 people, including five women, turned against her to have her murdered.

“My mother was beaten up very badly. She kept screaming but the entire village just watched. I protested, but couldn't save my mother,” said Bai's son Ashok Patel.

Witch-hunts are not uncommon in India and a large number of those accused of practicing witchcraft are killed each year. In fact, tribal communities across India’s northern and northeastern states frequently brand women as witches. Social scientists are of the opinion that most of these attacks stem from superstitious religious beliefs but there are some who target widows in particular, in order to acquire their land and property.

A week before this heinous incident was reported, in the state of Jharkhand, five Muslim women were made to parade naked by suspicious villagers, who then beat and forced the women to eat human excrement. Their crime was that they too were suspected of being witches.

According to police officials, the victims were all widows and had been branded as witches by a local cleric. While 11 villagers, including six women were booked for their involvement in the incident, only four were eventually arrested.

“On Sunday morning the victims were taken to a playground where hundreds had assembled to watch the ghastly incident,” said deputy inspector general of police Murari Lal Meena, “No one in the mob came forward to rescue the victims as they were being stripped and beaten up.”

Footage of this untoward incident was aired across different news television channels in India and that did spark some outrage but human rights activists say no concrete measures have been taken to ensure such attacks do not take place in the future.

Another such incident was reported on October 17, when Indian athlete Debjani Bora from the state of Assam was tied up against a pillar and severely beaten after being identified as a witch. Bora, who is an accomplished javelin thrower and has won several gold medals in the past, now fears she may not be able to deliver as before because of the brutal attacks.

Reportedly, Bora was accused after four people died in her home village. Her attackers dragged her to a community prayer hall where they wanted to conduct a public trial on charges of Bora practicing witchcraft.

“Instead of finding out why all the deaths occurred, some village elders suspected a witch was driving the people to death and organized a prayer. As the villagers were chanting hymns, one elderly woman identified me as the witch and shouted that I should be punished. I was blamed for all these deaths in the village, wrapped up in fishing nets and beaten up severely,” she recounted.

Bora was later taken to a local clinic, where she regained consciousness. Police officials arrested the woman who had initially identified Bora. They said close to 90 people have been burnt alive, beheaded or stabbed to death over the last five years, on grounds of practicing witchcraft.

Photo Credits: International Business Times

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