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127 witch-hunting cases in Rajasthan in last 2 years, activists slam police

Of the 127 cases registered under the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2015, charge sheets have been filed in 73. In Bhilwara district, 37 such instances -- the highest in the state -- were reported in the past two years, the data reveals.

jaipur Updated: Oct 30, 2017 19:43 IST
Deep Mukherjee
Deep Mukherjee
Hindustan Times
Rajasthan,witch hunting,Rajasthan Prevention of Witch Hunting Act
Activists say the actual number of cases, in which women have been killed or ostracised from their community after being branded as a witch, are much higher than what the government records indicate. (HIMANSHU VYAS/HT PHOTO)

Jaipur:

As many as 127 cases have come up in Rajasthan in the past two years, in which women have been branded as witches, data from the department of women and child development has revealed.

Of the 127 cases registered under the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2015, charge sheets have been filed in 73. In Bhilwara district, 37 such instances -- the highest in the state -- were reported in the past two years, the data reveals.

Twenty-six such cases, the second highest in the state, were registered in Udaipur, followed by Dungarpur with 20.

Activists say the actual number of cases, in which women have been killed or ostracised from their community after being branded as a witch, are much higher than what the government records indicate.

“Many a time, when a woman goes to a police station to report about such an incident, the police refuse to register cases under the witch hunting act,” said activist Tara Ahluwalia, chairperson of the Bhilwara-based Bal Evam Mahila Chetna Samiti. “The police dilly-dally often results in many such cases going unreported.”

The figures reveal that the social evil is most prevalent in areas of Rajasthan with a large tribal population.

“In rural Rajasthan, the stigma of being a witch amounts to social ostracisation, and lives of such women are in grave danger. It takes a lot of effort on the victim’s part to go to the police station; it is extremely unfortunate that she is let down by the administration,” said Ahluwalia.

Poverty, backwardness, illiteracy and lack of basic healthcare are assumed to be the breeding ground for superstitious belief in witchcraft. The witch doctors, called Bhopas who wield influence in areas with little access to healthcare, brand a woman as a witch, often with a motive to grab her land or property. “The witch doctors are almost never booked under the act,” said Ahluwalia.

In August this year, a 40-year-old woman from Kekri in Ajmer district was branded as a witch by her relatives and tortured, resulting in her death. She was allegedly fed human excreta and dirty water from drains by the accused.

According to National Crime Records Bureau data till 2014, Jharkhand tops in witch-hunt cases in the country; 464 women, majority of them tribals, have been branded witches and killed in Jharkhand between 2001 and 2014.

First Published: Oct 30, 2017 19:42 IST