72 witch-hunting cases in Rajasthan in 2 years, 25 from Bhilwara
The highest number of 25 cases were registered under the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2015, in Bhilwara district, followed by 15 in Udaipur district.
More than 70 cases have been reported in Rajasthan in the past two years in which women have been assaulted and molested after being branded as witches, police figures show.
The highest number of 25 cases were registered under the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2015, in Bhilwara district, followed by 15 in Udaipur district, five in Ajmer, and four each in Dungarpur, Banswara and Rajsamand, the data shows.
Of the 72 cases registered under various sections of the act, charge sheets have been filed in 36. In 26 cases, the final report was filed by police due to lack of evidence.
Investigations in 10 cases are pending, according to police data. Police arrested 86 bhopas or sorcerers on the charges of beating and molesting women in the last two years.
Inspector general of police (Udaipur range) Binita Thakur said the police try to complete the investigation as soon as possible in such cases.
“To ensure justice to victims, as soon as we receive information we send a team to the spot. We also try to complete the investigation in such cases,” she said.
Dalit rights activists from Bhilwara, Bhanwar Meghwanshi, said the number does not reflect the quantum of such crimes taking place in the state.
“The number of women tortured in the name of witchcraft, in reality, is even more. Most of such incidents are reported from tribal belts, which include Bhilwara, Udaipur, Dungarpur, Banswara and Pratapgarh,” Meghwanshi, director of Dalit Adivasi Ghumantu Adhikar Manch (DAGAR), said.
Most of the victims, Meghwanshi said, are not even aware of the prevention of witch-hunting act, are illiterate and afraid of registering a first information report (FIR) as they fear they may be ostracised.
“Poverty, lack of development, unawareness of the rights and lack of health care are the major reasons behind thriving of such practice in the area. In most of the cases, the targets are widows and the intentions of the sorcerers are to capture their land or property,” Meghwanshi added.
In November last year, a 23-year-old woman was molested by three sorcerers in Banswara district. The women, who used to fall ill on regular intervals, was taken by her family members to the bhopas in Ghaneva village for treatment.
The bhopas asked the woman to come inside their room without her family members. They molested her in the room and when the woman started shouting her mother came inside and asked them to stop. The men burnt her hands with charcoal declaring her a witch.
When rest of the family members intervened, the bhopas allegedly beat them up with sticks, according to police records.
According to the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch-hunting Act, 2015, “witch” means a woman, locally known as “dayan”, “dakan”, “dakin” or otherwise, who has been identified by any person or persons believing her to be in possession of, or as having, any evil power for causing any harm to any person or property.
Occult practices involve pulling women’s hair, beating up them with a broom, iron rod and pliers and dancing in front of them with the chanting of unintelligible phrases to “liberate” them.
Whoever commits witch-hunting can be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term of one to five years or with fine which shall not be less than Rs 50,000 or with both.