In the wake of mob killing of 7 people in Jharkhand, the state is once again back in the radar for most number of killings by mobs in India.
If there is one state in India that has the highest number of people lynched, it is Jharkhand. But the number of women killed for “witchcraft” in Jharkhand far surpasses the overall lynchings for consuming beef in the state.
According to a report by NDTV, the three men – Vikas Kumar Verma, Gautam Kumar Verma and Gangesh Gupta – were beaten to death in Nagadih as villagers accused them of kidnapping children.
Vikas and Gautam’s grandmother was also brutally assaulted. In the same report, the police mentions that it was “probably due to a WhatsApp rumour” that led to the killings of seven men in the state.
But this is not the first time when people were lynched and murdered in Jharkhand. In 2016, two Muslim men herding eight buffaloes on their way to a Friday market were beaten up and hanged to death from a tree, by suspected cattle-protection vigilantes, in Balumath forests in Latehar district, 100km from the state capital, Ranchi.
Just a month ago, a 19-year-old boy from a minority community was beaten to death in the Gumla district of Jharkhand, allegedly over his love affair with a Hindu girl. In a report by the Hindu, the Supritendent of Police mentioned that this incident didn’t have any communal angle.
But what’s not very surprising is that most number of people who have been killed due to lynching over the years in Jharkhand are women.“As per information provided by the NCRB [National Crime Records Bureau], a total of 127 cases were reported under murder for witchcraft in Jharkhand during 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively,” stated Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary in Rajya Sabha last year.
In August 2015, a village lynched five tribal women “for allegedly practicing ‘witchcraft.’” Two victims included a woman and her daughter. The villagers decided to kill the women “after a 17-year-old youth died four days earlier.” He complained of stomach pains and “a sorcerer from an adjoining village had blamed his death on witchcraft.”
From The Indian Express:
After they allegedly decided to “solve the problem for once and all”, some youths dragged 53-year-old Etwaria Kholkho out of her home, accusing her of being a witch. They demanded she name the other “witches” in the village, and Etwaria reportedly named Madni Kholkho (55), Jasinta Toppo (40), Tetri Kholkho (40) and her elderly mother, Ratiya Kholkho. One by one, each of these women was brought out in the open and beaten to death by the villagers, who battered them with sticks, bricks and stones. The killers allegedly disfigured their faces after killing them. Around 90 tribal families live in Kajiya Maraytoli. All of them bear the surnames Kholkho and Toppo. Some families are Christian.
People in the villages believe they can escape “their misery” if they hunt and punish witches. Studies have shown “land-grab and attempts to hold sway over local power structure are the driving factors for witch hunt.” They also use the witch hunt to “disinherit women from family property” or to silence those from lower social classes.