Woman accused of witchcraft ostracised

- ARJUN SHAH, DHANGADHI

Aug 18, 2018-

Radha Chaudhary, who was publicly tortured over witchcraft allegation in her village five months ago, continues to be ostracised by her neighbours and classmates.

Despite the efforts made by the authorities and local social organisations to rehabilitate her and restore normalcy in her life, the 20-year-old says she still feels like a pariah in her own village, among the very people that she has known all her life.

“People still avoid me, they try to stay as far away as possible. Even my classmates from the village do not talk to me these days. I do not feel at home here anymore,” she says.

It all started from a single incident. On March 8, which incidentally happens to be the International Women’s Day, Radha was captured and tortured for nearly six hours by a local shaman and his aides after being accused of being a witch. The entire village assembled and watched her get abused, lashed and kicked. Some villagers even pulled out their mobile phones and took videos of the horror. But none dared to speak up against the public persecution of the young woman.

Radha stayed at the Women Rehabilitation Centre in Dhangadi after the incident and was rehabilitated to her village Devakaliya of Ghodaghodi Municipality several days later.

But she never felt welcomed. Not even after her persecutors were arrested and their lies exposed.

The Kailali District Court sentenced the shaman, Ram Bahadur aka Bhole Baba, to five years in jail and slapped him with a fine of Rs 100,000 for torturing Radha on charge of ‘practicing witchcraft’. His aides Kismati and Smarika were sentenced to a year and six months in prison with a fine of Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 respectively.

But Radha says she still remains a witch in the eyes of the villagers.

“They don’t call me a witch on my face, but I have heard them utter the word ‘Boksi’ under their breath when I walk around the village,” she says. Radha’s mother, Phul Keshari, is constantly worried about her daughter. She laments that the environment in the village is not favourable for Radha anymore.

“Villagers still mistreat my daughter and it worries me a great deal. I can do nothing but watch, helpless”, says Phulkeshari. Phul Keshari lives with Radha and her other daughter in Devkaliya. Radha’s father and two brothers work as daily wage workers in India.

After the incident, Radha was felicitated at her school by the social organisations working against women violence in the district. Chief Minister Trilochan Bhatta and other ministers assured her that the full responsibility of her treatment and education will be taken care for. But Radha has not received a single help. “It’s already been five months now, but I have received nothing,” said Radha.

On a brighter note, Ram Chhabilal Chaudhary, headmaster of Rastriya Secondary School in Sukhad, said the school management committee decided to enroll Radha free of cost due to the pressure from the students and teachers.

Published: 18-08-2018 07:23

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