National

'They Call My Daughters Dayan Betis'

Sabitri Munda could never gather enough courage to approach the police but recently, after a local NGO got in touch with her, an agreement was signed and it was decided that the villagers would stop harassing her.

Photo: Md. Asghar Khan
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Sabitri Munda’s two daughters, aged 10 and 14, refuse to step out of their house and go play with other children in the village as they call them dayan beti (daughters of a witch). Munda, 40, lives in Kochbhung village in Namkum block in Ranchi. In 2012, she was branded a witch by villagers. Munda and her family own 16 acres of land and are counted among the few wealthy families in the village. Her ordeal began in 2008, when she moved to the village after getting married. Initially, it was her father-in-law who was branded a witch after he denied sacrificing animals while propitiating their god. He was beaten up and forced to stop the rituals. However, after his death, Munda was forced to perform the rituals. She refused. She was repeatedly summoned by the village heads. They threatened to confiscate her land. After many rounds of negotiation, she had to hand over two acres of land to the sarpanch (village head). Though she managed to save 14 acres of land, the harassment continued and over a period of time she had to spend lakhs of rupees on ‘gifts’ that the village head kept on demanding. The gift items ranged from gold and silver to goats and chicken for the “ghost burial rituals”. Munda could never gather enough courage to approach the police but recently, after a local NGO got in touch with her, an agreement was signed and it was decided that the villagers would stop harassing her.

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