Branding Them Witches, 4 Families Forced Out Of Homes

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Kolkata: Four Adivasi families in South Dinajpur district are wandering away from their homes for the past one fortnight after neighbours ostracised them on the superstition that they were witches.

The incident has taken place at Chak Balipukur villager under South Dinajpur’s Tapan police station area. According to Lakshmi Mardi, Kabiraj Murmu, Sukurmoni Murmu and five others, early last month, a visibly healthy youth suddenly died in their village. Following this, his family went to a shaman in neighbouring Jharkhand to know about the possible reason for this.
The shaman told them that eight villagers had been possessed by evil spirit, which had turned them into witches. To get rid of this, the eight individuals must undergo a purification puja and need to pay Rs 16,000 each along with 100 kgs of rice.

On returning to Chak Balipukur, the family conveyed a meeting of the village panchayat, which ordered the eight to obey the shaman’s diktat and pay up Rs 16,000 and 100 kgs of rice each. Chatur Hembram, the husband of local Trinamool panchayat member, also backed the move.

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With the targeted individuals declining to follow the diktat, the neighbours drove out them from the village the very next day and put their houses under lock and key. The four ostracised families reported the matter to Tapan police station and the local block development officer, but to no avail.

Thus, they were wandering about relatives’ places away from the village for the past one fortnight that an NGO from Balurghat got to know about this and extended help. Accompanied by the NGO members, the eight individuals called on the DM and SP of South Dinajpur today and sought their intervention.

Trinamool MLA and minister of state for north Bengal development, Bacchu Hansda said that he has come to know about the incident only today and has asked the administration for the safe return of the ostracised individuals to their village at the earliest. “I have spoken to the DM, SP, and the Tapan police station and have directed them to act fast,” the minister said.