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Friday, September 24, 2021

Maharashtra: Chandrapur sees attacks over ‘black magic’ charges, 7 saved from lynching

All the accused have been held under the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013.

Written by Vivek Deshpande | Chandrapur |
Updated: September 5, 2021 9:12:38 pm
Chandrapur, black magic, lynching, indian express, indian express news, mumbai news, current affairs, SC, BuddhismEknath Huke and Sahebrao, who were accused of ding black magic, at Chandrapur hospital. (Express Photo by Deepak Daware)

Chandrapur district in Maharashtra is reeling under three brutal assaults on suspicion of “black magic” in the past fortnight. While all the accused have been arrested, the fact that it hasn’t deterred further attacks has shaken villagers.

All the accused have been held under the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013.

The first attack was on August 21 in Wani Khurd village, when seven members of two related families were pulled out from their homes, tied to wooden pillars at the village square and almost lynched. One of the family members managed to alert police, who rescued the seven. Thirty-seven people have been arrested for the assault, allegedly directed against Eknath Huke, 75, for doing black magic on women of the village.

Then, on August 31, three members of the Kamte family from Mendhala village in Nagbhid tehsil were assaulted allegedly by the neighbouring Sadmake family, of whom five have been arrested. One of those beaten up, Ashok Kamte, has since gone missing, and police said they were hopeful of locating him.

In the third incident, on September 3, four members of Paddemwar family in Bhivapur ward of Chandrapur city were beaten up allegedly by close relatives and neighbours, with six arrested.

Eknath Huke’s grandson Pawan says their family members were beaten up for three hours on August 21. “The entire village looked on, with some clamouring for blood,” says Eknath’s son Sahebrao. The injured spent several days at Chandrapur Government Hospital. Eknath has two fractures in his right hand, apart from other bruises.

Besides the Hukes, three members of the Kamble family were attacked.

While police deny a caste angle, pointing out that the 37 arrested belong to different communities, tension had been brewing in the village between the Hukes, Scheduled Castes who adopted Buddhism, and the Matangs, also SCs. Eknath’s daughter-in-law Dhammashila is the president of the Buddha Vihar committee.

Wani Khurd also has five-six families of converted Christians. One of those held, Datta Kamble, is a Christian. Other accused belong to castes such as Kumbhar and Maratha.

“It’s wrong to see this as a case of Dalit atrocity as most of the accused are Dalits themselves. We have also arrested some belonging to OBC communities,” says Chandrapur Superintendent of Police Arvind Salve. “It’s a case that has arisen out of superstitious beliefs.”

Says Sahebrao: “A couple of days before August 21, a Muharram procession was organised in the village after a gap of many years. During this, four women of the Matang community started behaving in an odd manner. The villagers, including Matang leaders Sakharam, Apparao, Dadarao and Prakash Kotambe, and Vaidyanath Shinde called for a meeting on August 21, accusing my father (Eknath) of doing black magic on the women.”

Owning no land, Eknath, who came to Wani Khurd about 40 years ago from Telangana, .does odd jobs to make a living. It wasn’t the first time villagers had levelled allegations against him, the 75-year-old says. Four years ago, a Matang community member had blamed him after his child fell ill. “I was asked to swear on my children that ‘I won’t do it again’. I was assured nobody will bother me thereafter.”

The Matangs say they have had a dispute with the Hukes over playing of “Buddhist songs” from Buddha Vihar, where they live. However, they deny that is what led to the August 21 incident. One of the accused, Rajabai Shinde, said they also regret what happened. “This kind of thing happened in our village for the first time.”

With men from almost every alternate house in the village in jail, Wani Khurd wears a deserted look, with most houses locked. Sarpanch Pundlik Girmaji is said to have gone to Tirupati.

Deputy Superintendent of Police Sushil Nayak says that a day after the assault, on August 22, they organised an awareness programme in the village by the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANS) of Chandrapur.

ANS district organiser Anil Dahagaonkar says the villagers, on both sides of the dispute, “are victims of blind faith”. “Maharashtra has passed a very progressive law to curb black magic but for its effective implementation, intensive awareness drives need to be undertaken.”

Pradeep Aglave, an Ambedkarite scholar and former Head of the Department of Ambedkar Thought at Nagpur University, says the entry of political parties into old caste rifts, like between communities which have embraced Buddhism and the others, have also left an impact. “Over the last few years, attempts by parties like the BJP at polarisation among sections of backward castes have gained momentum. If skirmishes occur between these sections out of political considerations, it shouldn’t be surprising.”

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