In one more horrifying incident that sheds light on the corrosive hold of superstitions in many parts of rural India, a 40-year-old widow and mother of two from a village in Ajmer was assaulted, stripped, paraded naked around the village, fed human faeces and tortured with burning coals — all because her teenage niece and her friend accused her of being a witch, reported Hindustan Times.
When the victim's 15-year-old son tried to stop the villagers, he was asked to either watch silently as his mother was subjected to the excruciating torture or suffer the same fate as her. Scarcely a month ago, the boy had lost his father to an illness.
In an eye-witness account, victim Kanya Devi's son told HT that on the night of August 2, his teenage cousin and her friend started behaving strangely and claimed that a spirit had entered their body. They also accused Kanya Devi of being a witch and started beating her up and pulling her hair.
The mob tortured his mother by thrusting hot coals in her hands, eyes and other parts of her body.
Hearing the commotion, 8-10 people from nearby houses gathered around. A few went into the nearby fields and brought back faeces that Kanya Devi was forced to swallow along with water collected from the drains nearby.
When the young boy pleaded with the men to let his mother go, they ignored him and stripped her naked instead. The boy, unable to see his mother being paraded around the village in this condition, went inside the house. He also claimed that the mob tortured his mother by thrusting hot coals in her hands, eyes and other parts of her body.
Uttam Kumar Mirdha, a local compounder was called to Kanya Devi's house to tend to her after the villagers were done torturing her. "I was called on the morning of August 3 and after reaching Devi's home, I found that she was grievously injured. Upon enquiring, the family of her husband's elder brother told me she fell on the oven while preparing tea," HT quoted him as saying. Kanya Devi could not recover from the assault and died soon after.
The khap panchayat also asked everyone to take a dip in the lake in Pushkar to "wash off their sins" and decided that no police action would be taken in the matter.
By the time news of the incident reached Kanya Devi's daughter, Maya Regar, she was already dead. The village elders arranged a swift funeral and a khap panchayat meeting was summoned to hear the matter.
As 'punishment', the two girls that started the drama were fined with Rs 2,500, a tractor full of cow fodder, 5 tankers of water and one sack of vegetables, each. Similar token fines were levied on all the others involved in the heinous crime before they were let off.
The khap panchayat also asked everyone to take a dip in the lake in Pushkar to "wash off their sins" and decided that no police action would be taken in the matter after the fine was paid, Kanya Devi's son said. His own mother's killers were entrusted with the responsibility of looking after his well-being, now that he is an orphan.
Since the body was immediately cremated, no post mortem could be conducted and so it was difficult to prove the claims of torture made by the son.
Activists have slammed the police for their reluctance to take action, despite a formal complaint. Mahadev Regar, a distant relative and social worker tried to file a complaint with the police, but to no avail.
"I had received the complaint on August 10 from a relative, but we could not file an FIR as the complainant was not a close relative of the deceased," news agency PTI quoted Hari Ram Kumawat, the SHO of Kekri Police Station, as saying.
An FIR was finally lodged yesterday against four people — the two teenage girls and two men named Mahaveer and Chandraprakash — after Kanya Devi's daughter came forward to register a complaint under sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) and relevant sections of the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch-Hunting Act, 2015.
Ajmer's Superintendent of Police (SP), Rajendra Singh, told PTI that since the body was immediately cremated, no post mortem could be conducted and so it was difficult to prove the claims of torture made by the son.
"Thorough interrogation of the accused will reveal what transpired that day," PTI quoted him as saying. He also added that three persons have been detained and will be arrested soon.
The neighbours too refuse to give testimony, claiming that they had gone to sleep early after work and hadn't seen anything on the night of the incident, reported HT.
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