There is a village is Kochbong near Jharkhand’s Ranchi, where 3 women are branded as dayans and any road accident or any ill things happens to villagers because of them. They live the constant fear of death, every time an unfortunate event occurs in the village. Economically and infrastructurally, Kochbong is one of the better off villages in this constituency. Superstition, however, is its bane.
“The thought that I or my family can be attacked any minute always haunts me,” says Savitri. “Though the intervention of a social organisation did reduce the torture, my husband underwent such mental trauma that he had to be admitted at RINPA.” Savitri is convinced that this campaign to brand her a witch is a ploy by her relatives to grab her 13 acres of land. “I got to know that they have already finalised a deal with the land mafias and are trying to get me thrown out of the village so they can sell the land.” Nauri Devi, 42, who too has substantial land holdings, has a similar tale to tell. Branded a witch, her two teenage children face the wrath of the villagers. Even at school, Nauri's children are called names like dayan ka baccha (witch’s child), and harassed. A third woman branded a witch in this village, Bina Devi, could not be traced.
The horrors of women being tortured under the pretext that they are witches is prevailing since long. Yet another, a couple in their 50s was brutally killed in May, 2018 in Rampur village of Namkum block under the same pretext and 11 people were arrested. The case is pending in the Court. In an early incident in August 2015, 5 women were brutally killed under the same pretext at Kanjia Marai village in Mandar Block were 13 people were given rigorous imprisonment and were find 38,000 each. However, not all cases are reported because the whole community is involved in doing this.
National Crime Records Bureau has reviled the data which shows that the State has always been among the top three countries when it comes to murder of women branded as witches. The combined data of NCRB and Jharkhand police reveals that 590 persons have been lynched in Jharkhand for allegedly practising witchcraft during 2001-2018. The state has brought in Prevention of Witch (dayan) Practices Act, 2001 to specifically tackle the issue. However, the Act remains toothless with provision for minimal jail term and an inconsequential financial penalty. The Act states that someone harming a person by identifying them as a witches are liable to face action under the law. It also outlaws anyone branding a person a witch or dayan. However, the punishment remains a small fine of Rs 1,000-2,000 or imprisonment of three months to one year.
The government only focuses on tangible things, like roads and schools that can be ‘seen’. They should care about what happens in people's homes as well. Yes, roads and other things are important but what use are they if the social fabric is damaged and families are being torn apart. Their outlook should be to link such social evils to policy and bring them to an end.
Tags : #Jharkhand #Village #Female #Landowners #WitchHunting #Laws #Toothless