Yoked to bull, made to plough field
Rupali Bhuyan (17), a resident of a remote village in Tinsukia district of eastern Assam, displeased the rain god. On March 14, she hoisted a plough on her shoulder and hid it. The ‘sin’ brought an unprecedented dry spell to the area. And it warranted penance. Rahul Karmakar reports.india Updated: Mar 29, 2009 00:49 IST
Rupali Bhuyan (17), a resident of a remote village in Tinsukia district of eastern Assam, displeased the rain god. On March 14, she hoisted a plough on her shoulder and hid it. The ‘sin’ brought an unprecedented dry spell to the area. And it warranted penance.
So, to please the god, village priest Arjun Rajput yoked Rupali to a bull and made her plough her family’s paddy field on Wednesday. The punishment was cruel but Rupali was lucky not to be branded a witch.
Assam has for decades been grappling with witch-hunting among the adivasis and some plains tribal groups such as the Bodos and Rabhas. Witches — men, in some cases — blamed for diseases and natural calamities are impaled, beaten to death or burnt alive.
Rajput and his associates Haria Bhumij and Monish Chrispotta organised a purification ceremony and made Rupali plough the field. But that, apparently, wasn’t enough. So, the priest asked Rupali’s father Pawan Bhuyan for an atonement feast for the residents of five villages.
Ranjan Doley, in charge of Talap police outpost, said on Friday, “We have taken the statements of the victim, her family members and others in the adivasi village.”
He said, “The priest admitted to having made the girl haul the plough, but claimed that it was a token gesture — like a frog marriage — to appease the rain god. The girl’s kin denied that Rupali was tortured and refused to lodge a complaint.”
Assam State Women’s Commission chairperson Mridula Saharia labelled the incident unfortunate. She said, “We have been focusing on the legal rights of women. We will visit the area soon to take stock of the situation there.”
There is very little the police and the local authorities can do in such cases, Saharia said, adding only awareness about superstitious beliefs could be the answer.