Dakrama village (Muzaffarpur): Social distancing in times of Covid took on a new meaning for three women from a Bihar village when no one offered help as they were stripped semi-naked, tonsured, and forced to consume urine and human excreta by a mob that suspected them of practising black magic, a horrendous crime story in a state that was once known for ‘jungle raj’.
Lying on the floor in a Muzaffarpur hospital — that had hundreds of people queued up outside for hours to undergo a Covid test before they could see the doctors for other ailments — one of the victims, Maya Devi, 55, narrated to ThePrint how a 500-strong mob descended on her and two of her relatives in Muzaffarpur’s Dakrama village and beat them up with lathis this week because they suspected them to be “daayans (witches)”.
Maya Devi said no one came forward to help them. “All these people beat me up severely and kept calling me daayan. I had only gone to do puja,” she said.
“They made me drink urine and forced human excreta down my throat. There were over 500 people and all of them started beating me up. Not one person came forward to help us. They kept egging on others to join in and throw us out of the village,” added Maya Devi, who is recuperating at the Shrikrishna Medical College and Hospital in Muzaffarpur.
Her relatives say police acted swiftly after a video of the incident appeared on social media. “The video came to the administration’s notice and they took action,” said Geeta Devi, a family member.
“We were very scared as so many people from the village were there. That’s why we didn’t file a police complaint. The other two women were our relatives and from nearby. They went home after the incident,” said Bhutta Sahni, son of Maya Devi.
Police personnel said nine people have been arrested so far in the case.
‘They were performing puja for ailing child’
The family members claim the women were performing puja on the night of 4 May when they were “caught” by villagers who suspected them of indulging in black magic.
Bhutta said they were tied up and kept in a locked room overnight, and assaulted and tortured the next morning.
“These women were doing puja when a crowd gathered and started calling them daayans. When we asked them why they were beating them up, they forced urine and human excreta down their throat,” said Nand Kishore, a relative who was present with the three women when they were attacked.
The women’s relatives also alleged that the panchayat refused to intervene in the matter despite the family’s pleas for help.
“Our child was unwell so we wanted to perform some rituals (nazar utarna). But these men saw the three women and my father-in-law and started calling them witches and beat them up. They then forced them to consume human excreta and urine,” said Sumira Devi, one of the family members.
“They kept saying they were not witches but a huge crowd had gathered and did not listen to them.”
The victims as well as the accused are from the same village. The family members alleged that the accused wanted to throw these women out of the village.
“We are poor, that’s why they can do anything to us. They have also been threatening us. They kept shouting and alleging that they are witches and have harmed boys and husbands, and should not be allowed to stay in the village,” said Rangeela Devi, a family member.
A few of the accused, who were also brought to the hospital by police for Covid-19 screening before being produced in court, admitted that the incident took place but said they were being framed.
“The incident is correct but we did not do it and we are being framed. Whatever has happened is really bad. On 4 May, at around 11 pm, we were sleeping and these women were doing some puja near the railway line. Some other man from the village got hold of these three women and tied them up in a house,” said Shyam, who has been accused in the case.
“Then, others came there and beat them up and held them captive. They tonsured them and then finally let them go. We had only gone there to see what was happening and a video was made wherein we are visible and hence they framed us,” he added.