Shillong, May 8: An elderly peasant who was forced to move out of his village after his neighbours accused him of “witchcraft” and attacked him repeatedly, was reunited with his family today following a “peace pact”.
Johnson Marak, 64, is now back with his family, comprising his wife and six children, having signed the agreement after withdrawing an FIR against 45 fellow villagers, hailing from Joiram village near Balat under Mawsynram constituency.
On May 2, Johnson filed an FIR with East Khasi Hills superintendent of police A.R. Mawthoh recounting an incredible tale of superstition.
Last Saturday, Johnson chose to withdraw the FIR after signing the peace pact two days earlier, on May 3. The pact, in fact, was signed by Johnson and the villagers a day after the FIR was lodged.
According to the agreement, members of Joiram village council pledged to make peace with Johnson. They also promised that neither Johnson nor his family would be discriminated against, ostracised or physically hurt.
“Any act of non-compliance with the facts stated above will draw legal action,” the pact said. It was signed in the presence of a magistrate from East Khasi Hills T.S.R. Marak and deputy SP D. Kharshiing.
Following the pact, Johnson withdrew his FIR, with both parties arriving at a “compromise”. Last month, the peasant had to face abuse from fellow villagers after one Hiral Sangma came down with an orthopaedic problem, which his family and other villagers believed was the result of a spell cast by Johnson.
The allegation was peppered by claims by five women, Sesilia Sangma, Margina Marak, Pronali Arengh, Rabina Sangma and Seta Marak, that they had dreamt of Johnson giving “something” to people who “died”.
Provoked by such stories, villagers, armed with dao, spears and rods, under the alleged leadership of one Sitish Sangma, dragged the man to the village school and assaulted him. On April 16 Johnson decided to approach the Mulor Association (conglomerate of Garo headmen) of East Khasi Hills for help.
The association, on April 21, asked the Joiram village headman Prasanth Sangma to submit a report on the incidents. The headman sought a week’s time to tender the report. On April 28, a meeting was convened by the association at the village to try and sort out the issue. But before discussions could begin, Sitish Sangma arrived with weapons and attempted to assault the association members and kill Johnson. The association members, however, rescued Johnson and took him to the house of association secretary C.D. Sangma at Ryngku Bazaar. The same day, the in-charge of the Dangar-Balat police outpost, Martin Marak, told the villagers to take up the cudgels against Johnson. Martin has been transferred.