Defenceless Woman
Branded ‘Witch’

Despite a law in place, poor women from marginalized communities in Jharkhand continue to be branded as ‘witches’ and tortured. Mukesh Rajak describes the plight of Rubiya Bibi - a poor Muslim woman and a mother of 4 children from his own district who has been declared as a witch by her rich and influential villagers and brutally tortured. All the torturers were men.

The video shows how, along with the women accused of witchcraft, her children and family also are victimised and isolated from the society. The woman is also not allowed to work.

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. But her in-laws threw her out of their house. Rubiya’s husband who is mentally unstable, was unable to protect her.

Uneducated and denied work, Rubiya has no means to support herself or her children.

For her father, a daily wage labourer, its extremely difficult to feed so many mouths.

It’s this unjustified sufferings of Rubiya and her family that made Mukesh take up her case to report. He is especially bitter about the way Rubia’s children are ostracized, beaten and taunted every day.

During the shoot of this video Mukesh also spoke to several other victims of witchcraft like Rubia. These meetings made him realize that it is only the poor and defenceless women who are handpicked by their rich and powerful neighbours to be declared ‘witches’.

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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