Women in this District are reported to have been branded as witches since the days of the Aryans and are accused of possessing evil powers such as the power to curse, the power to utter dreadful maledictions and powers to even turn men into fauns. Once branded a witch, these women who belong to the lowest rungs of society are hunted down, stripped, stoned, beaten and forced to eat their own excreta. Very often, they are sentenced to gory deaths. The traditional sorcerer, who is locally known as 'Badwa Bhagat', is said to possess mystical powers to identify a witch.
The sorcerers in this tribal belt are revered by people as they remain a source of probable solutions to all physical, mental and environmental problems. They capitalize on the superstitious nature of the people here. The motives to brand a woman a witch could be many and include old family feuds, jealousy or the desire to usurp her property and the sorcerer is bribed to declare a woman as a witch. In the tribal areas, even today, people believe that all mishaps are caused by some woman casting evil spells.
The sorcerer claims to have the ability to detect a witch by playing over the head of a woman with a handful of grain with his eyes shut, head roving and pretending to be in a trance. He sometimes orders the chaining of the suspected woman's feet and orders her to walk and declaring her to be a witch if she fails to break the shackles. Once a woman is detected as a witch by the sorcerer, she is pulled by her hair, dragged to the village square and brutally beaten and stoned by the villagers. If she screamed in pain, the sorcerer alleges that it was the evil spirit that made her scream.
Representatives from an NGO named Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (group for eradication of superstitions) that has been working in this area say that it is mostly women who are weak and incapable of defending themselves that are branded as witches. Women who are branded as witches are never sexually exploited as the people here fear that evil spirits could be sexually transmitted from the alleged witch to them. Women alleged to be witches are maimed, paraded naked in the village or even killed. The person who kills a witch feels proud of his deed and considers it an honor even if he were to be prosecuted or jailed.
There are 11 Districts in Maharashtra where witch hunting is prevalent and over 400 cases have been reported from Nandurbar alone. The police stations are far away from the reach of most people. Most of the cases of witch-hunt goes unreported and those atrocities that come to the fore do so only when the witch hunt results in death. Many policemen are suspect of having belief in witchcraft and comply with the wishes of the sorcerer. The notorious sorcerer has considerable
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