Two days after a Vaishali mob bludgeoned 10 members of an impoverished nomadic tribe to death on the suspicion that they were thieves, the ‘ghosts’ of the slain men are haunting the village where the killing took place.
After the rampage by a blood-thirsty mob earlier this week, Rajapakar district wore a desolate look on Saturday. Most male residents have fled their homes, fearing a belated police reprisal in the wake of the nationwide outrage over the killings. Left behind were the women, many of whom spread red flowers and yellow mustard seeds outside their homes to ward off the ‘ghosts’.
Villagers said this exercise was part of a tantrik ritual to exorcise the ghosts of the massacred members of the wandering Kureri (Natt) tribe. Local folklore credits ghosts of Kureris with great malevolence. “In the event of an untimely death, Kureris turn into ghosts and can wreak havoc on the village. This ritual will guard us against their ire,” explained Rakmuniya Devi.
It may be just their imagination or guilty conscience, but several old women said they heard terrible sounds at night since the slaying took place.
“We burn wood outside our homes all night to keep the ghosts at bay,” said Mohini Devi. Vermilion circles have also been drawn around most houses to serve as shields. Yet, when street dogs bark at night, many turn in fear, claiming to hear “peculiar” sounds. “A tantrik is being requisitioned to draw a safety circle around village,” said Amar Singh, an elderly resident.
Such is the fear of ghosts that school children are told to skirt the spot where the killings took place. Attendance in schools has dwindled. A section of armed police has been deployed at the village, but apparently to little purpose.