Woman branded a witch, tortured with hot tongs

Jaipur:  A 30-year-old woman was branded as a witch and tortured with searing hot tongs that were placed on her body by two quacks in Rajasthan's Pali district, police said on Tuesday.

The woman, who sustained serious burn injuries, was confined to her home along with children, police said.

She escaped from her house on Monday and approached the local police station, showing the policemen her scars. Police have registered a first information report and are looking for the two quacks.

According to the police, the incident took place at Badari village of Pali district, some 300 km from Jaipur.

"Two quacks - Beeram Singh and Dalip Singh - barged into my house and placed searing hot tongs saying I am a witch. They then bolted us inside the house," the victim, Chandra Devi, said in her written complaint to the police.

She added that her children were watching the whole torture.

"She somehow managed to escape. A case has been registered. It seems the quacks acted on the behalf of some fellow villagers. Investigations are on," a senior police officer told IANS.

The practice of branding women as witches and torturing them continues unabated in the remote rural areas of Rajasthan.

Earlier, in the last week of May, a 30-year-old woman was also branded as a witch and tortured in Padardi Mewada village of Dungarpur district.

In the last week of July, a 35-year-old woman alleged that she was branded as a witch by villagers, tortured and was being forced to leave her village, again in Dungarpur district.

The state women and child development department has proposed a stringent law against women being branded witches.

According to the draft Rajasthan Women (Prevention and Protection from Atrocities) Bill, 2011, a crime would be considered to have been committed when any person or community intentionally or inadvertently abets, conspires, aids and instigates the identification of a woman as a witch, leading to her mental and physical torture and humiliation.

The bill has proposed a maximum of seven years' imprisonment and fine for those who grab the land of such women after forcing them to leave their house.

If a woman commits suicide after being termed a witch, the accused shall be given a prison sentence of not less than five years, which can be extended to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs.25,000. The fine can be enhanced to Rs.50,000, the draft bill says.

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