The Telegraph
Thursday , May 3 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Assaulted elder wants to fight for justice

Shillong, May 2: An elderly peasant who was severely assaulted on April 28 by fellow villagers for allegedly practising witchcraft in East hasi Hills, today walked into a police station demanding justice.

Johnson Marak, 64, still looking shaken, sat filing an FIR before East Khasi Hills superintendent of police A.R. Mawthoh today and recounting a saga of superstition that included a tale as incredulous as five women dreaming about him giving “something” to people where they “died”.

The trigger of the April mayhem dates back to December 2011.

Johnson, of Joiram village near Balat under Mawsynram constituency, was returning from a market when three men, Hiral Sangma, Lebet Sangma and Enus Sangma, allegedly assaulted him, for reasons unclear to him. In retaliation, an injured Johnson, said: “I’ll see you.” He then proceeded home.

In April, Hiral 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 where they “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 4, Johnson was ordered to leave the village through a jungle and not through the village road.

Johnson lay low for a while and plucked up the courage on April 16 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.

A week later, 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 attempted to assault the association members and kill Johnson.

It was also alleged that on the same day, the in-charge of the Dangar-Balat police outpost, Martin Marak, instigated the villagers to take up the cudgels against Johnson.

Moreover, the police officer, who is the son of Sitish Sangma, allegedly assured them that in the event of any case arising from the incident, he would be there to “take care”.

The association members, however, rescued Johnson and took him to the house of association secretary C.D. Sangma at Ryngku Bazaar.

Since that day, Johnson has been separated from his family which comprises his wife and six children — three sons and three daughters.

“I am very hurt and angry as I have been separated from my family. But once the situation returns to normal, I will definitely go back to my village. I am not afraid,” Johnson told reporters today after filing the FIR.

According to C.D. Sangma, the association secretary, the East Khasi Hills superintendent of police, after an enquiry, has said Johnson’s family members are safe.

Tomorrow, a police team will be visiting the village to take stock of the situation.

Johnson will also be part of the team.

The peasant said around seven years ago, two persons from the village were chased out after they were also alleged to have been practising witchcraft.

The duo later died — one at Dawki and the other in Borsora.

The FIR also listed the names of 45 villagers, including women, who have been accused of being behind the events.