“You either go inside or take the place of your mother.” This is what a 15-year-old boy was told on August 2 when he tried to stop villagers, including a teenager female cousin and her friend, from assaulting his 40-year-old mother.
The villagers went on to assault the woman, parade her naked, fed her human excreta and thrust smouldering coal in her hands.
She died a day later. Her son, the eyewitness to the incident, is yet to recover from the shock. It was only last month that his father died of illness.
It was just another usual evening until a cousin, a teenager girl and one of her friends set off a sequence of events that led to his mother’s death, says the boy.
“The two girls suddenly started behaving strangely and claimed that a spirit has entered their body. In that state, they claimed that my mother was a witch,” the boy told HT.
What followed next was barbarism at its worst. One of the girls pulled at the woman’s hair while the other started beating her up.
“By this time, 8-10 people had assembled. Some of them brought human excreta from nearby fields. Most of the people in our settlement defecate in the open,” the youngster said.
The mob, he said, then forced his mother to eat the faeces and drink water taken out from nearby drains.
“They didn’t pay any heed to my pleas to release her and stripped her naked. At this point, I went in as I couldn’t see my mother being paraded naked,” the teenager said.
The mob also allegedly tortured the woman with smouldering coal.
“They thrust hot coal in her hands and also hurt her in other places. They kept calling my mother a witch and refused to listen to her calls for mercy,” he added.
After her death, the youngster was made to witness a farce played out by the local khap panchayat, which let off his mother’s killers with a token fine asking them to “wash off their sins” in Pushkar.
“The two girls who began the whole drama were taken to Pushkar and after taking a dip in the lake, were absolved of their sins. The panchayat levied a fine of Rs 2,500 each on them and told everyone not to go to police,” the boy added.
In yet another travesty of justice, the community elders in the khap panchayat also entrusted the responsibility of the youth’s well being to the family of his mother’s killers.
“Rahul is an eyewitness to this utterly heinous and shameful incident. Strict action must be taken against the accused along with the people who convened the Khap Panchayat,” said activist Tara Ahluwalia, chairperson of the Bhilwara-based Bal Evam Mahila Chetna Samiti.
Ahluwalia said that a murky pattern emerges after looking into the background of witch-craft victims with most of them being widows and women dependent on others.