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Gender and Sexuality

Woman beaten, burnt on “witchcraft” charges in Simdega

Second lynching in the area this year; on Jan 4 a man was beaten and burnt for allegedly cutting down sacred trees

Sabrangindia 14 Jan 2022

simdegaImage: granthshala.in

Just days after a man was beaten and burnt in Simdega in Jharkhand for allegedly cutting down sacred trees, a 60-year-old woman also faced a similar fate on charges of witchcraft.

Jharo Devi had visited a family on Wednesday night for some rituals pertaining to the death of the wife of a man identified as Dundung, as per a news report in The Telegraph. The family suspected her of being responsible for the death, and Dundung and five others present there beat her up. Kumar Indresh, the officer-in-charge of the local police station told mediapersons, “They then poured kerosene on her and set her on fire.  However, some local residents informed us and we managed to rescue her.”

Jharo Devi has been admitted to Devkamal Hospital in Ranchi with 40 percent burns, while her six assailants have been arrested.

Witchcraft allegations prevalent in Jharkhand

Accusations of witchcraft against women are unfortunately common and have been used as a justification for violence against them for centuries. In many parts of rural India, the practice is prevalent even today, often as a means to either dispossess the woman in question of her wealth, or to punish her for daring to defy social norms.  It is so prevalent in Jharkhand that there is a whole Act dedicated to it called the Prevention of Witch (DAAIN) Practices Act 2001.

Interestingly, despite a name that sounds hostile towards people accused of practicing witchcraft, the Act actually aims to prevent the practice of identifying women as witches and their subsequent humiliation and persecution. However, the punishment under the various provisions of the Act appear to be nothing more than a rap on the knuckles.

For example, under section 3 of the Act, anyone who identifies a woman as a witch can be punished with a fine of Rs 1,000 or imprisonment up to three months or both. Under section 5, abetment to such identification carries the exact same punishment. Causing harm to a person after identifying them as a witch carries a relatively stricter punishment of fine of Rs 2,000 or imprisonment for up to six months or both. However, in some respite for victims, all offenses are cognisable and non-bailable.

Lynching continues unabated in the state

This is the second incident of lynching in the area just this month. On January 4, Sanju Pradhan, a native of Besrajara village in Jharkhand’s Simdega district was dragged out of his home and beaten up on allegations of tree felling allegedly by nearly 200 people from the neighbouring Bambalkhera village. The mob then set his body on fire. His widow claimed that the police just stood there and watched and did nothing to save her husband’s life.

What’s worse, is that the victim was then blamed for his fate, as shortly after the incident, reports emerged that Pradhan was allegedly associated with Maoists, and had cases lodged against him in the local thana. The Telegraph also reported how local police say that he would allegedly threaten people about the felling and sale of Sal trees. It remains to be established if any of these allegations are true or just another example of blaming the victim and justifying the lynching.

Two months ago, there was another such incident where a mob beat up a young man… again in Simdega! On November 28, the Muslim man identified as Md. Adil, said to be mentally challenged and 22-years-old, was brutally beaten up, when he wandered into a neighbouring village in the Idgah Mohalla in Simdega, by mistake. The attackers allegedly threw his cap on the ground and pulled his beard. Adil was then beaten and could barely talk as he recalled that a group of men had attacked him in the area known as Thakur Toli. 

Jharkhand has had its share of lynchings in the past as well, the most shocking being the Latehar lynchings that took place on March 18, 2016, when 32-year-old cattle trader Mazloom Ansari and his business partner’s 11-year-old son Imtiaz Khan were mercilessly beaten and hanged from a tree by cow vigilantes in Jhabar village. 

Related:

Cops didn’t intervene to save Simdega lynching victim: Widow

Muslim man assaulted, Adivasi man lynched to death: What is happening in Jharkhand?

How Jharkhand Police sabotaged the Latehar Lynching Case

Woman beaten, burnt on “witchcraft” charges in Simdega

Second lynching in the area this year; on Jan 4 a man was beaten and burnt for allegedly cutting down sacred trees

simdegaImage: granthshala.in

Just days after a man was beaten and burnt in Simdega in Jharkhand for allegedly cutting down sacred trees, a 60-year-old woman also faced a similar fate on charges of witchcraft.

Jharo Devi had visited a family on Wednesday night for some rituals pertaining to the death of the wife of a man identified as Dundung, as per a news report in The Telegraph. The family suspected her of being responsible for the death, and Dundung and five others present there beat her up. Kumar Indresh, the officer-in-charge of the local police station told mediapersons, “They then poured kerosene on her and set her on fire.  However, some local residents informed us and we managed to rescue her.”

Jharo Devi has been admitted to Devkamal Hospital in Ranchi with 40 percent burns, while her six assailants have been arrested.

Witchcraft allegations prevalent in Jharkhand

Accusations of witchcraft against women are unfortunately common and have been used as a justification for violence against them for centuries. In many parts of rural India, the practice is prevalent even today, often as a means to either dispossess the woman in question of her wealth, or to punish her for daring to defy social norms.  It is so prevalent in Jharkhand that there is a whole Act dedicated to it called the Prevention of Witch (DAAIN) Practices Act 2001.

Interestingly, despite a name that sounds hostile towards people accused of practicing witchcraft, the Act actually aims to prevent the practice of identifying women as witches and their subsequent humiliation and persecution. However, the punishment under the various provisions of the Act appear to be nothing more than a rap on the knuckles.

For example, under section 3 of the Act, anyone who identifies a woman as a witch can be punished with a fine of Rs 1,000 or imprisonment up to three months or both. Under section 5, abetment to such identification carries the exact same punishment. Causing harm to a person after identifying them as a witch carries a relatively stricter punishment of fine of Rs 2,000 or imprisonment for up to six months or both. However, in some respite for victims, all offenses are cognisable and non-bailable.

Lynching continues unabated in the state

This is the second incident of lynching in the area just this month. On January 4, Sanju Pradhan, a native of Besrajara village in Jharkhand’s Simdega district was dragged out of his home and beaten up on allegations of tree felling allegedly by nearly 200 people from the neighbouring Bambalkhera village. The mob then set his body on fire. His widow claimed that the police just stood there and watched and did nothing to save her husband’s life.

What’s worse, is that the victim was then blamed for his fate, as shortly after the incident, reports emerged that Pradhan was allegedly associated with Maoists, and had cases lodged against him in the local thana. The Telegraph also reported how local police say that he would allegedly threaten people about the felling and sale of Sal trees. It remains to be established if any of these allegations are true or just another example of blaming the victim and justifying the lynching.

Two months ago, there was another such incident where a mob beat up a young man… again in Simdega! On November 28, the Muslim man identified as Md. Adil, said to be mentally challenged and 22-years-old, was brutally beaten up, when he wandered into a neighbouring village in the Idgah Mohalla in Simdega, by mistake. The attackers allegedly threw his cap on the ground and pulled his beard. Adil was then beaten and could barely talk as he recalled that a group of men had attacked him in the area known as Thakur Toli. 

Jharkhand has had its share of lynchings in the past as well, the most shocking being the Latehar lynchings that took place on March 18, 2016, when 32-year-old cattle trader Mazloom Ansari and his business partner’s 11-year-old son Imtiaz Khan were mercilessly beaten and hanged from a tree by cow vigilantes in Jhabar village. 

Related:

Cops didn’t intervene to save Simdega lynching victim: Widow

Muslim man assaulted, Adivasi man lynched to death: What is happening in Jharkhand?

How Jharkhand Police sabotaged the Latehar Lynching Case

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