scorecardJharkhand's scary truth: 1,050 women branded witches and murdered in 23 years
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Jharkhand's scary truth: 1,050 women branded witches and murdered in 23 years

Jharkhand's scary truth: 1,050 women branded witches and murdered in 23 years
IndiaIndia4 min read
Twenty seven years on, horrifying memories linger on...

Meet Chutni Devi from Jharkhand's Beerbans village in Saraikela-Kharsawan district, who faced extreme atrocities after being branded as witch in 1995.

Whenever she recalls the atrocities on her, tears start rolling down her cheeks.

When the daughter of a neighbour fell ill, Chutni was blamed for that and branded as witch. Panchayat imposed a fine of Rs 500 on her and charged that she wanted to kill the neighbour's daughter.

Chutni gave the fine but when the neighbour's daughter didn't recover from illness, on the very next day, a group of 40 to 50 people attacked her house. She was dragged out of the house, mercilessly beaten, urnine and feces were thrown at her and she was stripped too.

After the horrifying experience, Chutni started working for the uplift of women and the fight against the superstition. She has given a respectable life to 150 women who were branded as witches.

Chutni's campaign is still continuing but the roots of evil are so deep in Jharkhand that such incidents continue even today.

She was conferred with the fourth highest civilian award Padma Shri in 2021 by the then President Ram Nath Kovind for rescuing and helping hundreds of women who have been facing atrocities over the years.

However, the question is what has changed in Jharkhand in this context .

Chutni Devi answers that atrocities in the name of branding women as witches have not stopped in the state. It is not merely based on superstition but also due to personal enmity and conspiracy to grab their property.

On September 3, three women were killed after branding them as witch in Ranadih village in Sonahatu police station area, 50 km from Ranchi. These women were blamed for the death of two youths who died in two days one after another due to snakebite. Most shocking thing is that the mob which killed these women also had a son of one of them.

On September 24, four people, including three women, were killed in the name of black magic and witchcraft in Aswari village in Jharkhand's sub capital Dumka. They were forced to have urine and feces and beaten with hot iron rods. The victims spent the night in deep pain but none of them had the courage to report about the incident to police or reveal it to anyone else.

When the police got to know about the incident, the victims were admitted to hospital.

Earlier, a Panchayat meeting was held in the village in which it was said Srilal Murmu and women in his family were practicing black magic due to which children and livestock in the village were unwell.

After that around 12 people, with sticks and weapons attacked Murmu's house.

On October 8, in Ranchi's Tupudana, a 65-year-old woman was killed after branding her as a witch.

In 2022, 26 people have been killed, of which more than 95 per cent are women.

In the past seven years, on an average 35 women are killed in the name of witchcraft every year.

According to Criminal Investigation Department (CID), in 2015, 46 women were killed after branding them as witch, 39 in 2016, 42 in 2017, 25 in 2018, 27 in 2019, 28 in 2020 and 22 in 2021. In seven and a half years , more than 250 people have been killed.

In cases of harassment after branding a woman as witch, police have registered 4,556 cases in between the year 2015 to 2020. Official figures for cases between 2021-2022 are not available. It is estimated that since 2015, over 5,000 cases have been reported till date, which means that every day two to three cases are recorded.

Jharkhand, which was carved out of Bihar in 2000, records three incidents of witch hunt violence per day and at least 1,050 people have been murdered due to the superstition in the past 23 years.

Chandoshree, who has been associated with social organisations and NGOs, said superstition and illiteracy are main reasons behind the witch-hunt but at times it is done with the ulterior motive of grabbing the properties of widow and helpless women. They are branded as witch for people's illness and death, even death of animals.

Jharkhand High Court advocate Yogendra Yadav told IANS that 30 to 40 per cent incidents of witch violence do not even reach police.

Most of the victims, mainly women do not even report it due to fear of the outlaws and social stigma.

Most of the harassment is faced at the hands of family and such incidents are reported when all limits are crossed.

The need of the hour is to make the law stricter, fast track courts for early disposal of such cases and intensifying campaign to spread awareness about the witch-hunt.

In 2021, the state brought in Witchcraft Prevention Act but the increasing number of such incidents need a review of the law.

As per Jharkhand Chief Minister's portal, to eradicate the malpractice of witch hunt, the state government has been running Garima Pariyojana.

Under this programme, an awareness programme is carried out against witch hunt, families of the victims are identified and provided help through Garima Kendras and call centres.

Under the first phase, the scheme is covering 342 gram panchayats in 25 blocks of seven districts.
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