In the name of driving out evil spirits, they were dragged into Ganga, hit with iron chain

The Allahabad High Court on Tuesday directed the Uttar Pradesh government to explain an incident in which some tribal women were assaulted, in the name of driving out evil spirits, during the ongoing Magh Mela in Allahabad.

On a Public Interest Litigation petition filed by law intern Deeksha Dwivedi and social worker Utpala Shukla, a Bench of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Dilip Gupta directed the government to set up an inquiry committee and initiate immediate action against the accused. The next hearing has been fixed for February 5.

The petition cited a report in a local Hindi daily (dated January 23), on the basis of which the Human Rights Law Network constituted a fact-finding team headed by lawyers K.K Roy and Smriti Karthikeya.

The team found that more than half a dozen tribal women were brought in a jeep to the Sangam area, pulled out and dragged by the hair all the way into the icy waters of the Ganga. Once in the river, these women, whose clothes were partially ripped by now, were hit with an iron chain.

The policemen there remained mute spectators, said Ms. Kartikheya.

The tribal women and the accused, believed to be a group of ojhas (professional exorcists) are from Banda district in Bundelkhand. But neither the accused nor the victims have been identified yet. The acts took place close to the high-security Sangam area during the month-long Magh festival, annual version of the Maha Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad every 12 years.

Both accused and victims have not been identified yet