Twelve persons have been arrested for the alleged daylight murder of a 55-year-old woman Dukulhin Bai on suspicion of practising witchcraft in Bemetra district. All the accused are the relatives of the victim including her brother-in-law Nakul Patel and his wife Ankalhin Bai. According to Bemetara SP Narendra Khare, Patel’s son was unwell for several months and he suspected that Dukulhin had practised witchcraft on him.
Patel and Ankalhin led a mob of nearly two dozen relatives and barged into Dukulhin’s home in Banjarpur village late on Saturday evening. The village is around 50 km from the district headquarters.
They dragged her outside, took her to the village chowk and stripped her before public. All the while her husband, son and entire village remained silent spectator.
“They dragged my mother out of the home. I and my father tried to resist but they were too many,” Dukulhin’s 20-year-old son Ashok Patel said.
The crowd inserted red pepper in her mouth, nostrils and private parts, kicked her and thrashed her badly with sticks. “Entire village watched her but no one came forward for help,” Ashok said.
She sustained serious injuries and was taken to a nearby health centre later at night where doctors declared her dead. All the accused were arrested on Sunday evening.
“This is a family dispute. They killed her on suspicion of witchcraft,” Khare said.
Chhattisgarh has enacted a penal law that invites strict punishment for causing injury to women on suspicion of witchcraft. Even calling a woman “tonhi” ( a woman who practices witchcraft) may bring imprisonment for three years, but tribal and rural areas of the state often see such violence.
Such is the extent of violence against women on this account, that even the relatives of ruling BJP leaders have complained of it. In March 2013, Hemanti Sai, the daughter-in-law of BJP’s tribal MP Nand Kumar Sai, blamed her in-laws for terming her a “tonhi” and expelling her from home.
In a related incident, two villagers were killed and at least six were injured in police firing in a village of Gariyaband district in June. The police had gone to the village following a complaint by a woman that some villagers tortured her and called her a “tonhi”. As the police reached the spot, villagers got angry, set her home on fire and attacked the police team.