It was in the late 1980s. I will not say that we were not aware of witch hunts and the witchcraft practices. But, truly, till then, I had never met anyone who had been marked as a witch. Along with Father Alex and two others, I went to Khuntpani, a remote village in Chaibasa district where, for the first time, I encountered what they call dayan.
In Khuntpani, we saw a very strange phenomenon. Though water was kept in tubs with mugs in front of the mud houses, nobody would agree to serve you a glass of water. It was self-service. However, the reason for it was definitely not the adoption of a western, modernist approach; rather it was the belief in the existence of evil powers that led to such practices. When I asked them the reason, I was told, “If someone gives you water and you fall ill, who will take the responsibility? You will definitely mark that person a ‘witch’. So, everyone is fearful of giving you water.”