85-year-old Rajasthan woman stripped and tortured for being a ‘witch’

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An 85-year-old woman has complained of being tortured with searing tongs and stripped after being branded as a witch in Rajasthan’s Bihara village, over 260 km from Jaipur, police said.

The incident occurred on Sunday in Bhilwara district.

“The woman, Chau Bai, met additional superintendent of police of the area on Monday and told him about the incident. Police have launched an investigation into it,” a police official said.

The woman, a mother of two daughters, in her complaint alleged that on Sunday about 14-16 people from her village branded her as a witch and tortured her with searing hot tongs. “I was beaten with iron chains,” she alleged.

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Bai, who was later admitted to Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Bhilwara, alleged the villagers targeted her to grab her property and wanted to force her out of the village.

Chau said, “On Sunday some villagers brought a witch doctor. They (the villagers) dragged me forcibly by my hair to my veranda (porch). The witch doctor poured a liquor like substance on my body. I was beaten up and stripped naked and later they threw me into a nali (drain).”

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The Rajasthan Prevention of Witch Hunting Act 2015, which is in force in the state, says that forcing a woman, after branding her as a witch, to drink or eat any inedible substance or any obnoxious substance or parade her naked or with scanty clothes or with painted face or body or committing any similar acts derogatory to human dignity or displacing her from her house or other property is punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term not less than three years but which may be extended to seven years or served with a fine not less than Rs.50,000 or both.

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Despite the Act, several cases of women being branded witches and harassed have been reported in Rajasthan in the last few months. In the last three days in Bhilwara alone, three cases of women being branded as witches have come to light.

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