Friday, September 03, 2010

Defenceless Woman Branded Witch, Brutally Tortured

Despite a state law in place, poor women from marginalized communities in Jharkhand continue to be branded as ‘witches’ and tortured. Here is a video that describes the plight of Rubiya Bibi - a poor Muslim woman and a mother of 4 children from Jharkhand state of India, branded as a ‘witch’ and tortured by men of her village.

Brutally beaten, made to eat human waste, ostracized, denied work and earning opportunities, forced to live in isolation – this is the story of Rubiya Bibi, a poor Muslim woman in Jharkhand, India, branded as a ‘witch’ by men in her village.

A mother of four children – all under 10 -, Rubiya’s husband is mentally unstable and oblivious to what is happeing. Rubiya’s in-laws have supported her tormentors and driven her away from her husband’s home.

Rubiya now lives at her father’s home. Her father, a poor labourer, struggles to feed so many mouths with his meager income. Rubiya’a children can’t go to school as their mother is a ‘witch’. They can’t play with other children because everyone teases them as the ‘witch’s children.

Jharkhand was one of the first Indian states, to adopt a law against witchcraft-related cruelties and crimes against women. The law - Witchcraft Prevention Act, 2001 provides for severe punishment for those who brand/torture/kill women as ‘witches’.

Ironically, the state still continues to top the list of women branded as witches.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records state that Jharkhand has witnessed deaths of 249 persons (mostly women) between 2001 and 2008 for "practising witchcraft".

The Jharkhand Criminal Investigation Department figures maintain that as many as 1,200 witches managed to survive torture and attacks between 2001 and 2009. The figures suggest that there has been a rise in the number of attacks on women accused of being a 'witch'.

While the attackers aim to kill the victim, some lucky ones manage to escape. Rubiya was also lucky to have survived. After escaping, she went to the police station of Deoghar and filed a case against her tormentors. But police refused to take action.

Mukesh Rajak, the young community correspondent of IndiaUnheardlives in Deoghar. When he met Rubiya, he was heartbroken to see the plight of the poor uneducated woman who neither any means to earn, nor is provided any help from anyone. He says, “It is only the poor and defenceless women like Rubiya Bibi who are handpicked by their rich and powerful neighbours to be declared ‘witches”.

The unjustified sufferings of Rubiya and her family that made Mukesh angry and bitter, especially the way Rubia’s children were ostracized and taunted every day. It was this anger that made him do this video report, as a documentation of witchcraft torture, despite a law against it.

Mukesh is keenly following the case filed by Ribiya Bibi. He wants people watching this video to create pressure on the police of Deogarh to act on the case, so that this woman can get justice under the existing anti-witchcraft law.

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