I am 32 –year old Jageshari Devi and wife of Ramashankar. I have 4 sons. Eldest is 11 year old Tejbali, second son is 6 year old Rambali, third one is 4 year old Shyamnarayan, and youngest is 1 year old Rajnarayan. I live in Kariya village, which falls under the jurisdiction of Dudhi police station in Sonebhadra district of Uttar Pradesh. My marriage took place in Zubeida (Aasandih) and I lived in in-laws house for 4 years. Then, I came back to Kariya to take care of my ailing father. 3 sisters are elder to me and they live along with their spouses in their ancestral house. We own 8 bighas of land on which I and my husband till the land for eking out of our living.
Just after 3 houses my cousin Dhullar lives along with her husband Sahdev She has 5 sons and 2 daughters. She lost her two sons. On 31st July 2007, Sania died. After hearing the news of his death I rushed to my cousin’s house. When I reached there, I saw 4 women and the ojha were busy trying to ward off the spirit using jhar –phook (healing ritual employed to expel the malevolent spirit). I sat inside. My brother-in-law sat stretching his legs with stick, rod, and hunter at the door. Seeing me he was continuously muttering ‘witch’, who has gobbled up my son. Staring at me he threatened ‘I won’t spare you. I would see how you leave this place and go outside’. Seeing his behaviour, I got scared. Baffled at that I was wondering what he was blabbering. I just spent the night there and then in the morning, when I saw Sahdev had moved away from the door then I rushed back to my home. If he would have been there then he would not allowed me to come. After reaching home I completed the household chores of sweeping the floor and washing the utensils. At around 12.00 noon, people started gathering for the burial of the boy. I was busy working at home. Then Sahdev called me ‘come here’. I was quite terrified at his behaviour in the previous night then also I gathered courage and went there.
Round about 60 people had gathered the boy’s last journey. Ojha was busy with his jhar-phook ritual. I also sat amongst the villagers huddled together with gloom writ large on their faces. Sahdev asked me to come in the front. Then, I thought why he was especially calling me. I was shivering with fear and heeded to his call. ‘What’s the matter’, I asked Sahdev. Then, he handed over Sania’s body and shouted on me, “You ‘witch’ turn him alive or otherwise I won’t spare you.” The ojha encircled me and started the jhar-phook ritual. Frightened I was sitting tight with Sania’s body in my lap. After a long jhar-phook ritual, Sahdev asked me to open the tongue and then I got nervous. Villagers were mute spectators to all what was happening. Then Sahdev told me to open the tongue so that he could throw some grains of rice, which would be ploughed up by a cock. Shivering with fear, I opened my mouth, Sahdev who was carrying a blade and slit my tongue.
I started screaming in pain and cried incessantly. Neither among those sitting along with me came to console me nor did they stop Sahdev. Blood started oozing out my mouth and within few moments it was splattered in the floor. My husband was scared and he did not say anything. All my cloth got soaked in blood. It crossed over my mind am I really a ‘witch’. In front of my eyes, ojha and Sahdev slit my tongue into small pieces and threw the grains of rice and ploughed by a cock. Then, all those who had gathered went to the burial ground and my husband also followed them. After the burial, they left the cock at the graveyard. Without caring about me I was left alone to suffer. Women living nearby my house also had in their mind that I was a ‘witch’ and left me to suffer. I cried through out the night without medicine or food. Since morning I had not taken any food. After my tongue was slashed I was not able to drink water. Throughout the night I groaning in pain but nobody came to my rescue.
Who would have taken care of my children if I would have rushed to the hospital? Today whenever I remember that I burst into rage for those who were standing as a mute spectator to such a ghastly incident. I think am I really a ‘witch’. In the morning, whatever had happened in the evening, everyone was talking about that. Accompanied by my husband, I went to the doctor at Myorpur Community Health Centre. He asked my husband what had happened. My husband narrated the entire incident. Then a Sub Inspector and a constable from Dudhi police station came in a jeep. I was admitted in the hospital. The Sub Inspector was time and again asking what had happened. Whenever I was trying to speak, there was excruciating pain in my tongue. Then, my husband narrated the facts to the police.
I was in the hospital for 4 days and my children were left alone. My husband stayed at the hospital. Nobody from my neighbour came to see me at the hospital. I was quite worried about my children. I was always something untoward should not happen with them. When I returned home then I came to know that Sahdev’s youngest son who had a prolonged illness had also died. Listening that, I started shaking in fear. Then I used to keep mum at the fact that the ojha and Sahdev were behind the bars. Ten, I used to shudder at the fact when they would be released what would be their behaviour towards me. My husband is quite simple and straight forward. They want to grab our land by branding me as ‘witch’. Earlier also, in our area a family was dispossessed from their land by putting up a quarrel. They also want to assiduously dispossess us from our land by branding me as a ‘witch’ and slashing my tongue. Driving us away they want to grab our land. I was quite worried and spent sleepless nights. I was able to swallow the food, neither I was able to drink. Whenever I used speak, it was incoherent. I want that whoever has done that and branded me a ‘witch’ should be given exemplary punishment. Fearing reprisals from Sahdev, neighbours do not turn up to see me. Whenever any one visits us they us what’s use of narrating it to others. I am quite infuriated at the fact whenever I think that nobody could do anything to me. I am quite relieved while narrating the entire incident to you.
Therapist: Farhat Shaba Khanam