Twelve persons have been arrested for allegedly killing a 55-year-old woman, Dukulhin Bai, in broad daylight on suspicion of practising witchcraft in Bemetara district. All the accused are related to the victim. They include her brother-in-law Nakul Patel and his wife Ankalhin Bai.
According to Bemetara SP Narendra Khare, Patel’s son had been unwell for several months and he suspected that Dukulhin had performed witchcraft on him.
Nakul and Ankalhin allegedly led a mob of nearly two dozen relatives and barged into Dukulhin’s home in Banjarpur village, 50 km from the district headquarters, late on October 25.
Police said that they dragged her outside, took her to the village chowk and stripped her. “They dragged my mother out of the house. My father and I tried to resist but they were too many,” Dukulhin’s 20-year-old son Ashok Patel said.
Ashok said that the crowd put red chillies in her mouth, nostrils and private parts, kicked her and thrashed her with sticks. “The entire village watched her but no one came forward for help,” Ashok said.
Dukulhin sustained serious injuries and was taken to a nearby health centre at night, where doctors declared her dead. All the accused were arrested the following day. “This is a family dispute. They killed her on suspicion of witchcraft,” Khare said.
Chhattisgarh has enacted a law that invites strict punishment for causing injury to women on suspicion of witchcraft. Even calling a woman “tonhi” (a woman who practises witchcraft) can lead to imprisonment for three years. Despite this, tribal and rural areas of the state often see such violence.
In March 2013, Hemanti Sai, the daughter-in-law of BJP’s tribal MP Nand Kumar Sai, blamed her in-laws for calling her a “tonhi” and expelling her from home.
In June, two villagers were killed and six injured in police firing in a village of Gariyaband district. The police had gone to the village following a complaint by a woman that some villagers tortured her for practising witchcraft. When police reached the spot, villagers set her home on fire and attacked the police team.