'Witch' hunt continues in Rajasthan

'Witch' hunt continues in Rajasthan

The incident took place in Fuliakhurd village in Bhilwara district, some 250 km from state capital Jaipur, and a case has been registered against four villagers. Police say an inquiry has been ordered.

"A group of people broke open the door of my house Monday and started beating me. They held me by my hair and dragged me, saying I was a 'dayan' (witch). Then they ordered me to leave the village immediately," the woman said in her complaint.

"They ostracised her and claimed that she was a 'dayan' (witch) and possessed an evil spirit," a senior police officer told IANS. "She said that some villagers told her to leave the village immediately, failing which they threatened to torture her," he said.

He said that a first information report (FIR) has been registered against four villagers, including Gheesu Jaat, Chhothu, Balu Mali and Godu Mali. "Some others were also involved. They are being identified. We are conducting raids," he added.

Many similar incidents of branding women as witches and torturing them have been reported from remote rural areas of Rajasthan. The state department of women and child development recently proposed a stringent law against the practice of branding women as witches.

According to the draft of the Rajasthan Women (Prevention and Protection from Atrocities) Bill, 2011, a crime would be considered to have been committed when any person or community intentionally or inadvertently abets, conspires, aids and instigates the identification of a woman as a witch, leading to her mental and physical torture and humiliation.

The bill has proposed a maximum of seven years’ imprisonment and fine for those who grab the land of such women after forcing them to leave their houses. If a woman commits suicide after being called a witch, the accused shall be given a prison sentence of not less than five years, which can be extended to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs.25,000. The fine can be enhanced to Rs.50,000, the bill draft says.

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