From Devi to Dayan

Posted: January 30, 2014 by Ankur in Writes...
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The woman is someone who cannot be defined easily she can be a mother, a sister, a wife and a daughter as well. The member of homo sapiens who sacrifice the most. Leaves her home, give birth, bear all the pain. In India even today women once married doesn’t speaks a word against the family of her husband, even today they believe in sacrifices, they carry all the pains and along with the practice of leaving her own house after marriage, even brings dowry. Not only this, women in India are regarded as deity on earth. From the time of Vedas women are being regarded as an incarnation of goddess on earth. There are home where when a baby girl is born they consider her as Laxmi who is the goddess of wealth. In Hindu religion the power of knowledge, wealth and strength lies in goddess Saraswati, Laxmi, Durga, all women. 

But the condition is not even everywhere. The plight of women has been really indelicate in several areas. Women are considered as a ‘woe’ by the men in the society in many places. I am not saying so because it is a written fact, but a visual one. Where on one hand they are being regarded as goddess on the other hand their rights and life both have been chucked away because of the patriarchal nature of the society which has always dominated the women. The oppression, suppression and all forms of household violence has been prevalent in the earlier society and even today in some of the places. 

It was Sita Who gave the Agni Pariksha, it was Sati who had to burn herself alive, it was and is women suffering. The horrifying truth related to women in this 21st century which I would like to mention is that, women still in today’s world has to suffer from a practice called ‘witch branding’. Branding a women as a witch. A witch! At one place you worship the woman deity and on the other hand you call them witch? 

The practice of witch branding is prevalent usually in tribal areas of India, which include, Jharkhand, Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The community and the local crowd target one of the women the target is decided accordingly. There are many mala fide intentions found behind these activities either there is some personal grudge, property matter, revengeful act or usually hearsay. One such mentioned by the Women’s Feature Service (Jharkhand) is that this is the easiest way to acquire a woman’s property. 

The target is usually a widow, she is alone and without any support and hence they could be easily targeted. Branding them is not the end, there are several inhuman acts after that. The savage people brutally beat up the women, kill them, few lustful rascals take advantage of the situation and outrage the modesty of the women. Sometimes the women are raped as well then killed. This is one the most horrifying violence against women which still exists. Their soul is ripped apart, their character is assassinated, they are blamed for every unexpected happening, whether low rainfall, whether famine or drought or death of any person. A virtuous woman is killed for no reason they are beaten, paraded naked, disgraced, ostracized and then robbed of their land by anti social elements and sometimes even greedy relatives. Because of this witch branding practice.

Government has implemented several Acts to avoid this brutal and ignominious act of people, but those are much awaited to be seen in action. Many acts are being written on paper but not seen in force, usually it is seen the local authorities are even involved in this indelicate practice and hence no actions are taken.

Although offences under the Jharkhand’s Prevention of Witch Practices Act are cognisable and non bailable, the punishment is not stringent and the Act is seen as a legislation without teeth. For all the torture that a woman suffers on being branded a ‘dayan’ (witch), the Act recommends imprisonment for a term that may extend to three months or a fine of Rs 1,000 or both for the wrongdoer .Furthermore, any person who exploits a woman on the suspicion that she is a witch can be punished under the legislation with imprisonment for a term that may extend to six months or Rs 2,000 fine or both. If any person instigates anybody to brand a woman a witch, he can be imprisoned for a period of three months, fined Rs 1,000 or both. Despite of all the legislations existing the women’s self respect and life are ostracized and sabotaged.

Statistics on witch-hunting crimes compiled by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) are a cause of concern. The NCRB reported that in 2007, 177 cases of witchcraft-related murders were reported from the above mentioned states. Jharkhand had the dubious distinction of reporting 50 witchcraft- related murders, followed by Andhra Pradesh with 33; Haryana at 30; Orissa with 28; Madhya Pradesh with 14, Chhattisgarh with 8 and Gujarat with only one reported case.

There are many such barbarous and gross scandals have been reported recently. Few of them are mentioned below to make everyone realise that having a nuclear deal, or a Lokpal will not be sufficient to make our land progress and prosper, if people are so much interested in fasting and publicizing ask them to consider these issues which are not even discussed 

• A 55-year-old woman was set on fire reportedly after she was branded as a witch by four members of a family at Rojwa village in the district, police said. Around seven members of one Dhedhiya family from the village allegedly attacked Mohliben Dhansingh Rathwa at her house on Sunday, dragged her out and set her on fire, an officer from Rangpur police station told. The accused were apprehended from the village today and a search is on to trace three other members suspected to have been involved in the attack.

• On the 25th of Jne in Jaipur, a 30-year-old woman was stripped and molested after being branded as a witch in Rajasthan’s Tonk district, police said Monday. The incident took place Saturday in Dhuan village of Tonk district, some 120 km from Jaipur. The woman approached police to register a first information report (FIR) against four people Sunday evening. The woman said that four men barged into her house while she was asleep and started alleging that she was a witch. They asked her to leave the village. She said in her complaint that they stripped, molested her and tried to rape her but the she managed to escape.

• In Gurwari village of Bhilwara District in Rajasthan, a 55 year-old woman was returning home from the temple when four men and a woman attacked her and started beating her with sticks. A huge crowd of villagers gathered there as the attackers claimed she was a witch and was possessed by an evil spirit. Her clothes were torn and she was stripped publicly. 

The reported ones are in front of us, many such incidents are not known to us, the issue is not something which would get resolved on its own, some initiative has to be taken, several such practice is done but no one comes to know about it as the women is killed or she out of shame never turns up. The practice still continues in many tribal areas of several states, something has to be done before the plague could spread any further. Let us not ruin the sanctity of a women, let their modesty be preserved and self respect be respected.
Same ‘Devi’ turned into a ‘Dayan’ ironical.!

Ashutosh Upadhyaya

Symbiosis Law School, Noida

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