A tribal woman at Kadmal village in Gujarat’s Dang district died and four others, including two women, were hospitalised after they were tortured and branded with hot rods allegedly by an exorcist who suspected that they were possessed and involved in witchcraft.
The condition of the four, who are admitted at Valsad Civil Hospital, is said to be critical.
Meanwhile, village sarpanch Vanitaben Chaudhary’s husband was attacked by locals after police, acting on her complaint, arrested five villagers for summoning the exorcist.
“The exorcist with the help of some villagers had tortured the people who they claim were carrying out witchcraft activities. We have arrested five people in this connection… We are also trying to identify the exorcist involved in the death of a woman,” said Sub-Inspector R C Vasava of Subir police station.
According to sources, it all started few days ago when some villagers complained of fever, which was blamed on witchcraft. Some of the villagers then called an exorcist to “identify people involved in witchcraft”.
Police sources said that on Friday night, five villagers — Paruben Janabhai Pawar (50), her husband Janabhai Pawar (55), Anaben Pawar (45), Nachjibhai Bhisara (50), Rajyuben Bhisara (51) — all suspected to be practising witchcraft were brought to the village temple where the exorcist performed certain “rituals” and physically tortured them, while rest of the villagers watched.
The five were branded with a hot iron rod on their hands and other body parts and made to walk on burning charcoal, after which they collapsed and were taken home by their family members.
As their condition deteriorated, they were taken to Ahwa civil hospital where Paruben Pawar died. With the condition of the other four being critical, they were shifted to Valsad Civil Hospital.
After coming to know about Paruben’s death, sarpanch Vanitaben, accompanied by her husband Gulab Chaudhary and Paruben’s son Nanabhai, reached Subir police station on Friday night and filed a complaint against five villagers — Vanu Pawar, Dinesh Budhekar, Suresh Bhoye, Chhagan Jhamar and Jayram Gavit — for calling the exorcist.
After the police arrested those five men, a group of 20 people, mostly women, reached the sarpanch’s house on Saturday morning and beat up Vanitaben’s husband. He was rushed to Ahwa hospital where his condition is reported to be out of danger
The sarpanch has filed another complaint against the villagers for attacking them. “We have registered a complaint on rioting and have started looking for the accused,” Vasava added.