Woman labelled as witch, forced to eat burning coal

Jaipur, India - In one more instance of a woman being branded a witch and tortured, an 85-year-old Dalit woman in Rajasthan was mercilessly beaten and forced to keep a burning coal in her mouth on the suspicion that she practised black magic.

Bali Bharu Doli was returning home to her village in Bhilwara district, about 250 km from here, when three members of a family attacked her. They alleged that she was torturing their family through black magic and forced her to eat burning coal.

Doli filed a police complaint Wednesday and two people have been arrested. The police are hunting for the third person in the group, an official from Bhilwara said.

In a bid to curtail the ill treatment of women on the specious excuse that they are witches, the state's women's commission prepared a draft bill a year ago and sent it to the government.

"In many parts of the state, women who exhibit abnormal behaviour are often called witches and maltreated by society. It often results in torture leading to suicides. In order to prevent the inhuman practice, we have come out with a draft bill," said Tara Bhandari, chairperson of the commission.

According to the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch (Dain) Practices Bill, a crime would be considered to have been committed when any person or community intentionally or inadvertently abets, conspires, aids and instigates the identification of a woman as a witch leading to her mental and physical torture and humiliation.