Spiritual Savagery still a pride….? Moushumi Basu/ India
From superstition to “spiritual savagery”, goes the brutal road to a remote village in Jharkhand, a state of tribal origin in Eastern India. The village by the name of Saudag under Tupudana police outpost is barely 20kms away from Ranchi, the state capital. The gruesome incident of cold blooded killing of three persons branded as witches and exorcists recently in this tribal hamlet sent shock waves in society. This is the third such incident in a row in recent times, leading to a total loss of eight lives and what shook me further was that it continues with full social sanction in this tribal dominated village.
There was stony silence in the village when I reached there. I was shocked to see the state of the three bodies lying in large pools of blood … the heads cut off from their bodies.
The victims Soma Khaka, aged 65, his wife Jhirgi (60) and their daughter Phulo (21) were hacked to death and the whole village stood as mute spectators, giving full consent to the gory act. The precedence to the killing lay in the death of a 14 year old daughter of Risha Khaka, kin of Soma, on the auspicious occasion of Karma (a tribal festival) on September last. The enraged villagers said... “Soma and his family practiced “Jhar-phoonk” (exorcism) or a spiritual way of healing in rural areas and they have killed her.”
Now just hear the justification to their blinding superstitions and beliefs. Says Rami Khaka, one of the villagers, “Prior to the incident, we had organized “Daalia” a tribal ritual , practiced through a tribal priest or “bhagat”. He has Divine powers and instantly identifies the culprit... The priest had pointed fingers at Soma and his family… once acquitted in the process, you can not survive… he/she has to be killed, in the interests of the community…”
The Officer-in-charge Tupudana Police outpost, Mr. MK Thakur was stunned. What further alarmed him was the complete unanimity of opinion amongst the villagers, in connection with the incident. “No body had even a qualm of guilt and did not utter a word before the police”, he says.
However, an FIR could be lodged on the statement of Pinki Khaka, 15 year old surviving daughter of Soma, on the basis of which three arrests were made. But worse was in store! An irate mob of villagers, including men, women and children surrounded the police outpost soon after, demanding the immediate release of the arrested.
Though in suspended disbelief over the whole incident, I feel superstition may just be an excuse. Often such victims are branded witches or exorcists such that they may be thrown out of the village and their lands grabbed or personal scores and family rivalry settled. Sometimes it is also used to punish those who question social norms.
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