The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Widows escape killing after witch hunt

Ahmedabad, Aug. 29: Dahod district police have arrested three persons, including two brothers, for assaulting and intending to murder three women after branding them witches in Gamla village.

Police reached the village, about 8 km from Dahod near the Madhya Pradesh border, just in time last morning to prevent villagers led by Babu Sabla, Nathu Babla and Jogad Songadia from executing the women after having tortured, tonsured and paraded them.

The women — all over 60 and widows — had to be admitted to Dahod Civil Hospital.

Dahod superintendent of police R.B. Patel said over phone an anonymous tip-off had enabled police to intervene in the nick of time and save the lives of the three widows.

The elderly women, Rommaliben Galalbhai, Sangaben Jumlabhai and Keshaben, were branded witches after Dilip, the 12-year-old son of Jogad Songadia, died three days ago.

Police said the boy died of some illness, but the villagers blamed his death on witchcraft, allegedly practised by the trio, after they found a half-charred chicken among Dilip’s ashes.

In tribal Dahod, widows are frequently suspected of being witches and blamed for any death or misfortune in the village, and often killed as punishment.

On Wednesday morning, the three women were dragged out of their houses, beaten up and tonsured.

They were paraded through the village to an open ground to be executed in front of some 1,500 villagers. The mob dispersed only after police threatened to use force and arrest them.

Acting on Keshaben’s complaint, police have registered a case of attempt to kill, illegal confinement and humiliation against Sabla, Babla and Songadia.

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