I am 45-year old Manbhasiya Gond. I live in Ghagri village, which falls under the jurisdiction of Bhabni police station in Sonebhadra district of Uttar Pradesh. My husband’s name is Jodhilal, who is a farmer. I have 2 sons and 7 daughters. One among my sons and 2 daughters are married. My children are Suratlal, Rajkumari, Rajpati, Hiramati, Sonamati, Sonekumar, Kanwalpati, Sitapati, and Ramsurat. Earlier I used to help my husband in tilling and ploughing the land. Now I am physically incapacitated to do the work.
Still it is etched in my memory when I was branded ‘witch’ and attacked with axe, whose pain still lingers on.
On July 2010, at 4.00 p.m. Ramroop, a cousin who belongs to our lineage called me. Just half kilometre away from our house lived his nephew, Deepak, who had lost his 1 year old son. I thought in such difficult situation I should rush immediately, my husband told that you go I am coming. When I reached there, Deepak started hurling abuse and shouted on me, “You ‘witch’ and I don’t know what you have done to my son?” Then, Ramroop entered the room and threw the dead child on my lap and said, “You are swallowing up each and every member of the family.” I was quite pained and was got infuriated at the allegations made against me. Responding to their allegations, I said, “Get it examined if I have done anything.” Then, Deepak clutched my elbow and Ramroop ran towards with an axe, shouting, “You bastard ‘witch’.” She should be eliminated immediately, then Ramroop attacked me with axe and I was unconscious. Deepak’s younger brother Devkushan and father Chhote Lal were raining incessant blows on me with wooden stick. I had fallen down. Blows were rained on my lips and my front tooth had broken. Then, axe was punched on my cheek, I was unconscious and blood started oozing out of my chest, lips, cheek and there injury in my private parts. My saree was thrown and I was undressed. What had happened to me I don’t remember. When my husband reached he saw what had been done to me. Seeing my husband, all who had gathered disappeared. Then, my husband took me to home with tears falling down his eyes. I was taken to Myorpur Government hospital at 10 a.m where I was unconscious for two days. After 2 days, when my husband and children came in front of me I could not control my tears.
When I was crying then my husband tried to make me understand that he could not do anything when heinous things were done to me. Then he told me to forget and not to worry. After 10 days, I was discharged from the hospital. I took medicine for one month from a Bengali medical practitioner. My husband filed a FIR and the guilty were put behind the bars. But later on, they were released on bail. Still the case is going on. My husband had to spend Rs. 20,000 on medicines and for 8 days I could not gulp a morsel of food. Now our financial condition had quite worsened. Due to physical weakness I am not able to work and there is constant headache. There is giddiness as the head goes on reeling. My vision has reduced and it haunts my mind that why those people thrashed by undressing me. If I was a ‘witch’ they could have beaten, then why they removed my clothes. In the hospital, the lady doctor asked me if I was sexually assaulted or not? What I could have told her I don’t remember anything. But there is constant body ache and I don’t know what they have done to me? Thinking about this, I spend sleepless nights and think that if I would have died than what would have happened to the family? Many a times I get infuriated. I fear to venture outside. We have to spend Rs. 2000 for filing the case.
Now even if I wish to do anything but I am not able to do that. Those who tortured and branded me as ‘witch’ say that this time they would kill me. I want that exemplary punishment should be given to the guilty.
Testimony translated by Mr. Tarun Kanti Bose