Woman allegedly tortured in Rajasthan village

Special Correspondent

"Attacks taking place despite her attempts to get justice"

JAIPUR: Bold women beware! They stand the chance of being branded as "Dakan" (witch) in Rajasthan villages. This is what a team of activists has found after visiting Rampura Khurd village in Dausa district of Rajasthan following reports of torture of a woman for the alleged crime of possessing "evil" powers.

Dhaka Bai of Dholiyon Ki Dhani in Rampura Khurd had unsuccessfully fought election for a ward member in 2005. In July that year when Bhoma Ram Bairwa's 20-year-old grandson Narendra died in Delhi, she was accused of "consuming" his life. The relatives of Bhoma Ram severely beat up Dhaka Bai.

Dhaka Bai was again accused of casting her evil spell on the family of Bhoma Ram when his other grandson, five-year-old Mahesh, suddenly died in November 2005. The armed men not only ransacked her house but also broke her husband Rampratap's hand. Dhaka Bai, who too sustained fracture on her hand besides other serious injuries in the attack, had to remain in Ramkaran Joshi Government General Hospital at Dausa for 11 days.

On her return from the hospital on December 18, Dhaka Bai was again manhandled. The marauders dragged her to the village square. Despite several attempts, the officials at the Nangal police station did not register a case. The attacks continued in 2006 as well. The campaign against Dhaka Bai got intensified when Bhoma Ram's goat died in July 2006.

The attacks were taking place despite her attempts from time to time to get justice from the local police, the district authorities and the Rajasthan Women's Commission. The Commission on its part wrote to the Superintendent of Police, Dausa on December 23, 2005 but got the reply mentioning an earlier "restriction" (pavbandi) order against her tormentors issued by the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate.

`Brave woman'

"We have found that Dhaka Bai is a brave and fearless woman. Our studies on `Dakans' in Rajasthan and other States indicate that all the so-called women with evil powers are unusually bold, though otherwise ordinary, women," said Pawan Surana, former Chairperson of the Rajasthan Women's Commission, who led a team to Dausa this week. The team included representatives of PUCL, Rajasthan University Women's Association, Dalit Adhikar Kendra and Gramin Prabandh Sansthan.

"The intention behind the witch-hunting seems to be the desire to usurp the land owned by Dhaka Bai's family. Bhoma Ram's brother owns land in the neighbourhood of Dhaka Bai's plot and once her family leaves the place in the wake of physical assaults and social ostracism the neighbours could have taken over," said PUCL general secretary Kavita Srivastava.

The activists have demanded registration of cases against the tormentors of Dhaka Bai, suspension of the police officers who were responsible for her continued torture, and establishment of an anganwadi centre in the village. They have sought an assistance of Rs.1 lakh for Dhaka Bai besides taking up the "Dakan Kuruti Unmoolan Act" -- for which a draft was prepared during the previous Women's Commission's tenure -- for enactment in the forthcoming session of Rajasthan Assembly.

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