Rajasthan: A horrific 'witch-hunt', a khap and the irresponsible police
On August 2, Kanya Devi of Rajasthan's Ajmer was randomly branded a witch, made to eat human feces, had hot coal thrust in her eyes, stripped naked and paraded throughout her village. She died. All this happened in front of her 15-year-old son. The accused were let off with a Rs. 2,500 fine. It took the police 10 days to make the first arrests.
According to the son, on the fateful evening in Regar mohalla (a settlement of 200 Dalit families), his two cousins were suddenly 'possessed' by a spirit. Then they pronounced Devi a witch. Villagers then assaulted Devi, force-fed her human excreta and water from drains, thrust hot coal into her hands and eyes, stripped her naked and paraded her around. She died the next day.
The local khap made the situation worse. As 'punishment', they asked the two sisters, the cousins, to take a "holy dip" in Pushkar and fined them Rs. 2,500 each. What's more, community elders entrusted the young teenager's responsibility to the family of his mother's murderers. His father had died last month. The panchayat then asked everyone not to go to the cops.
Apparently, police didn't even act in the matter at first till their inaction was criticized. According to Mahadev Regar, a relative of Devi, "In spite of me giving the complaint to the police and communicating them the matter, a case was not lodged."
Cops finally lodged an FIR yesterday and arrested the two cousins and three male relatives. Khap members haven't been named as accused. They have been charged with murder and other sections in the Prevention of Witch-hunting Act. However, there's no mention of 'outraging the modesty of a woman'. One of the accused, Mahaveer, still insists the incident happened on instructions from 'Bhairu Nath Ji'.