An 80-year-old woman, labelled a witch by a Jat family and locked up in her own home for 18 days, was rescued by a district administration team on Tuesday and admitted to a government hospital in Bhilwara district. When Ramkanya Devi, mother of four, spoke to The Indian Express she was lying in the ICU of the Mahatma Gandhi Government Hospital. She kept covering her face with an odhni, as if to block out daylight. She kept clutching her sister Sugna’s hand.
When asked why she was called a witch and locked up in a 10ftx10ft windowless room, where she cowered, hardly ate and relieved herself, Ramkanya seemed reluctant to speak much. “I am not a witch. But let it go,” she said, then broke into sobs. Ramkanya’s family is the only Nai (barber) household in Bholi village that has 60 Jat families, a higher and more influential caste. The woman’s fault: she lived across the street from a school, where Pooja, a girl from a Jat home, went to study. When Pooja fell ill, her family consulted a quack, who said she was being consumed by a daakan (a witch). The Mangrop police station, has filed an FIR against Shivraj and Sunil Jat — Pooja’s relatives —under the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2015. “We have registered an FIR under relevant sections of the Act. Both accused are untraceable,” station house officer of Mangrop said.
Sugna said her sister used to be the village midwife and everyone was fond of her. “They would call her amma. But then she injured her head 8-10 years ago. Since then, she has been a little slow. And now look what she has become,” she said. The Jat family’s search for a witch ended at the quiet, socially awkward Ramkanya. “Two days before they attacked us, the Jats visited us and told us our mother is a witch. She is making their daughter ill and asked us to either lock her up or leave the village. They said they would burn our house,” Mahaveer, Ramkanya’s youngest son, said. On August 4, Shivraj and Sunil Jat came to Ramkanya’s residence.
“They started thrashing my father and almost broke his jaw. My mother ran inside. The men then told us to lock her up. They said my mother was consuming their daughter,” said Jagdish, another son. “We fell at their feet and apologised and said we would lock her up,” he said. Ramkanya was rescued Tuesday by a district team. The doctors at the hospital, where she was taken after being rescued, said the woman came back from the brink of death.