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Witch-hunt & assault land one in custody

One person was arrested in Katihar district on Wednesday for allegedly accusing a woman of practising black magic and forcing her to eat human excreta.

Nirmala Devi alias Kunia, 35, was forced to eat human excreta and was paraded naked at Sakraili village, around 150km northeast of Patna, on Tuesday. One Raju Rishi had approached the panchayat, accusing Kunia of practising black magic after the death of his minor son. In the evening, she lodged an FIR against 11 people of whom Raju was arrested.

Police said Raju approached the local panchayat for action against Kunia. He declared her a witch after his son Kanchan Rishi died on Monday.

The woman, from the Scheduled Castes, was brought before the panchayat on Tuesday and forced to eat human excreta. She was paraded naked, assaulted and asked to leave the village, around 15km east of the Katihar district headquarters.

Katihar sub-divisional police officer Rakesh Kumar said a complaint had been lodged against 11 people in the village based on her statement. On Wednesday, Raju was arrested and forwarded to jail. The police said operations have been intensified to arrest the remaining accused.

Rakesh told The Telegraph: “The Semapur police station house officer has been assigned the job to probe the case.”

The station house officer, Amit Kumar, confirmed that Raju was arrested. He said: “A complaint was lodged late on Tuesday evening under sections 3 and 4 of the Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 1999.”

Sources in the state police headquarters said superintendents of police (SPs) were asked around a year-and-a-half ago to ensure that witch-hunt was stopped in the remote areas of the state.

“Harassing a woman on the pretext of witchcraft is a serious offence under the Prevention of Witch Hunting Act,” a police officer said.

The SPs were also told to expedite the investigation into these cases. The state human rights commission had also drawn the attention of then director-general of police Abhayanand to conduct speedy investigation into these offences.

Despite the headquarters’ directive, it has continued unabated.

At least 10 such complaints were registered last year. A similar directive was issued by the state women and child development department two years ago as well.


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