Posted On February 29, 2024

The State Women’s Rights Commission took suo motu cognizance of the matter following allegations of delayed police action. Banswara Divisional Commissioner Neeraj K Pavan and Inspector General of Police S. Parimala visited the woman’s home on Wednesday morning.

Geetha Sunil Pillai

Banswara- Despite stringent laws and the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch-hunting Act, 2015, incidents of witch-hunting continue to occur, particularly in tribal areas. The latest case has surfaced in South Rajasthan, specifically in a village in Banswara district where a woman was brutally tortured by her husband and mother-in-law. Police has detained two persons while one of the accused is at large.

The case of inhuman torture has come to light in the Motagaon area, where a woman was subjected to brutalities and called a witch. This heinous act was committed by the woman’s husband who is a former Sarpanch, his first wife, and mother-in-law.

Allegedly, while calling her a witch, all three stripped the woman naked, tied her to a cot, and then beat her mercilessly. The husband allegedly punched the woman’s face and kept her starving. Fortunately, the victim’s father reached her in-laws’ house by coincidence and rescued her, taking her to the hospital. Later, he lodged a complaint at the Circle Officer’s office seeking justice.

In the written report submitted to the police, the woman narrated – “The accused husband married me under the Nata custom in 2021, while he already had a wife. Initially, everything seemed fine, and I also had two daughters. However, when the first wife’s son fell ill, the husband, co-wife, and mother-in-law began harassing me, calling me a witch. On the night of February 14, at 12 o’clock, my husband came and started physically assaulting me, alleging that I had cast a spell on his son and made him sick. He threatened to kill me if I didn’t cure his son. Meanwhile, the first wife and my mother-in-law also arrived and accused me of being a witch while splashing lemon juice on me. They held my hands, and the husband stripped and beat me.” Afterward, the victim was tied to a cot.

The State Women’s Rights Commission took suo motu cognizance of the matter following allegations of delayed police action. Divisional Commissioner Neeraj K Pavan and Inspector General of Police S. Parimala visited the woman’s home on Wednesday morning.

Speaking to the media, the police officer stated that a team was constituted the previous night, and one accused was detained, while the second was detained on Wednesday morning. One perpetrator is still at large, and search teams have been dispatched.

Divisional Commissioner Pavan emphasized that the police acted swiftly, stating, “We are taking action on three fronts: firstly, to ensure the victim receives prompt medical treatment; secondly, to apprehend the culprits; and thirdly, to expedite the process of compensating the victim. We are also ensuring that she receives support to recover from the psychological trauma.”

Tragically, the incident in Motagaon village is not an isolated case. Witch-hunting, known as “Dayan Pratha,” remains a rampant and deeply entrenched issue in Rajasthan as well as India’s rural areas. Superstitions and lack of awareness continue to fuel such brutal practices, posing a significant challenge for law enforcement and activists alike.

In a similar another distressing incident reported from Gossaigaon sub division of Kokrajhar district in Assam, a 54-year-old women was hacked to death by a group of individuals who suspected her for practising ‘witch craft’. The incident was reported on Wednesday morning from Paharpur village near Satyapur where a widow Maino Hasda was found murdered.

Legislation Against Witchcraft Practices in India

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), between 2001 and 2021, approximately 3,093 women were murdered in India due to superstition. While it may seem that cases of women being labelled as witches and subjected to atrocities have decreased in recent years based on legally recorded cases, the ground reality is quite different. This practice still persists socially even today.

Different states have enacted laws against the practice of witchcraft, such as Jharkhand’s Prevention of Witchcraft Act 2001, Bihar’s Bihar Witchcraft Prohibition Act 1999, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and others.

Rajasthan has also implemented the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch-Hunting Act 2015, which came after these laws. According to this:

It is a crime to portray oneself as a witch doctor, tantric, or sorcerer. Additionally, no one can claim to be a master of any supernatural or magical powers. Doing so carries a punishment of three years’ imprisonment.

Claiming the presence of ghosts or spirits can lead to imprisonment for up to seven years. If anyone performs rituals to free someone from witchcraft, they can be sentenced to three to seven years in prison. If any area witnesses activities related to witchcraft eradication, the government can declare it an affected area and impose collective penalties.

In case of death due to witch persecution, anyone involved in the persecution can face imprisonment from seven years to life. According to the law, feeding any woman something unpalatable or disgusting while calling her a witch is a crime. Those found guilty of this offense can face up to three years in prison and fines of up to 50,000 rupees

Furthermore, the law also provides for accommodation, clothing, medical assistance, and financial assistance for affected women by the government.

Courtesy : The Mooknayak