Dalit women in Rajasthan are being hunted by ‘bhopa’ sorcerers, who exploit superstitions on health
When a 75-year-old woman, labelled a witch by an influential Jat family and locked up in her own home was rescued by a team from the administration in August, the ugly face of medieval-style witch-hunting was revealed in the Mewar region of Rajasthan. The incident at Bholi village in Bhilwara district is not an isolated one.
Sunita Devi (name changed), who spent 18 days in a room measuring 10 ft x 10 ft without a window, was held responsible for the illness of a school-going girl from a Jat home. A ‘bhopa’ (exorcist) told the family that Sunita was a witch, and Jats responded by attacking her modest house – the only one belonging to the backward Nai community in the village – and thrashing her husband and sons.
In another instance, Lakshmi Bai (name changed), 65, has been forced to live in Bhilwara for 12 years after being driven out of her native Dariba village on the suspicion of being a witch. Living with her husband as a social outcast, she attended the caste panchayat five times pleading that the odious tag be removed, but to no avail. Sunita Devi and Lakshmi Bai came to Jaipur this week to narrate their sufferings to State Women’s Commission chairperson Suman Sharma, after the occult practices of ‘bhopas’ were exposed in a sting operation led by social activist Tara Ahluwalia. Hundreds of ‘bhopas’ have gone into hiding in Bhilwara, Chittorgarh, Rajsamand and Udaipur since their torture of innocent women came to light.