Seven of the nine persons who allegedly killed a 50-year-old woman and raped her daughter in Jashpur district of Chhattisgarh on Sunday night have been have been remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.
The police said the main accused, Ramlal Lohar, had already admitted to his crime. “Ramlal has told the local media that he has killed the woman assuming that she was a witch, casting a bad spell on his family,” Jashpur Superintendent of Police Manish Sharma told The Hindu on the phone.
The 24-year-old daughter was put through a medical test, along with the accused. “According to the report, which I am yet to see, a rape has been committed,” Mr. Sharma said.
After the murder, which took place in Kunkuri block, adjacent to Jharkhand, one of the accused raped her daughter. The police are looking for two other accused.
However, activists feel that it is not an easy task to secure conviction. In 2011, in the same Kunkuri block, a mother and her daughter were killed for allegedly practising black magic. “The accused eventually got bail as there was no witness,” said Sewti Panna, a social activist of Jashpur. In parts of Chhattisgarh, a few women were killed each year for “witch craft,” she said.
“Any one can claim any thing about a woman and establish she is a witch. Like, a person with fever can say that a particular woman appeared in his or her dream and hence she is responsible for the ailment and thus she is a witch,” said Ms Panna. Mostly, in order to acquire the property of a family where there are no male members or usurp property of a single woman, such allegations are framed by other family members who are mostly driven by male members, said Ms Panna. “The drive that is required to fight such a social evil is unfortunately missing,” said Ms Panna.
Witch hunting is a deep rooted social evil in Chattisgarh and even influence the most prominent people. Earlier this year the daughter-in-law of BJP’s tribal MP Nand Kumar Sai accused him and his family of torturing her as a witch. Mr Sai called her a “mentally unstable” woman who “is under medication.”
“All my life, I have opposed superstitions like 'toni' (witchcraft),” he told the press, in his desperate bid to avert criticism.