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“Don’t Talk To Her, She’s A Witch”: What ‘Witch Hunts’ REALLY Do To Women

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Witches, Mudiyapairi, And Patriarchy In Rural India

You must have heard about this term recently in a movie. Mudiyapiri means a witch whose legs are twisted behind their ankles. We all have come across the definition of how a witch looks: long black nails, open long hair, twisted legs, marks on the skin and, she knows black magic.  Since my childhood, I have heard mostly in rural areas that witches mostly kill their family or sacrifice a man’s life to increase their youth and lifespan.

How do they get this power when I asked the girls living in a village to explain to me then she said they worship evil and in return, they get magical power, and all their power is stored in their long hair.

The practice of witch-hunting, although criminalised, is still practised in many parts of India to subjugate women.

A Witch-Hunt That I Have Witnessed

I believed these stories in the past. One of the old ladies called me towards her to ask about my whereabouts. The same girl called me back shouting my name. “Why are you talking to that woman?” I was shocked by her behaviour and asked why she doesn’t want me to talk to her. She said aggressively, “don’t you know she is a witch. She takes away the young kids and kills them on full moon day to gain more evil power.

 I felt she was lying or had misunderstood. I went to my grandmother sitting on the veranda. I asked the old lady in our neighbourhood why Lali said to me she is a witch. She said yes it is true she takes away kids if she finds them alone. Instinctively, I said, “but today morning, she talked to me and there was no harm“.

My grandmother got angry and went to the old lady’s home and shouted, “why are you after my kids?” The old lady came out and said “I haven’t done anything to your kids” and granny replies, “you haven’t, yes, because Lali saved her.” Soon all the villagers gathered and started talking to themselves. 

“Yes, she is a witch, she must be out of our village”, and the old woman went on crying hearing all the taunts. Seeing that my grandmother said, “the person who is the reason for all of our children’s deaths is trying to gain sympathy. “

One master came out and said, “Has anyone seen her doing whatever you are blaming her for?” Everyone went quiet for a moment. And then my ‘Kaki (aunt)’ said, “you don’t know the master we are here, you don’t know how she killed her husband two months after the marriage. And also tried to kill his relative’s son but they went away from her. And today she tried to kill Shakuntala dadi’s granddaughter.” 

He looked at me and asked, “Did she hurt you?” I replied, “no she was just talking to me“.  Master said she is just an old lady and I don’t know who spread this rumor and you guys always try to bother her.”

Everyone went back to their homes blabbering, “master doesn’t know anything. One day, he will come to know how dangerous this witch is. Soon my summer vacation was about to end and we packed our bags and promised my granny to come back again and we went to the station.

The Truth

I got promoted to a new class and was starting my new class the next day. I thought about that incident a lot but got wrapped up in my new class and it soon slipped my mind. 

Exactly 5 years ago, my father called me and told me to not eat non-veg for 15 days. I asked what happened. He said that the old lady that you were talking to once died. I could slightly remember who she was and asked how she died,  Father told me that her relative’s son came to her place and they killed her for the property. And I asked but everyone in the village wanted her to die why do I need to follow these rituals it’s only for the good souls, right.

“Yes, beta we were wrong. The old lady’s relatives were trying to harm her for the properties since her husband died. And her husband died due to cancer. Those relatives’ son and her mother spread the rumours so that no one talks to her and they can easily make her sign the property. Police are taking action against those boys. “

I felt bad for the old lady but went on thinking there are many stories about witches but do they really exist? 

Maybe there are lots of women who have faced the same things and are called witches in our democratic society. But still, this practice is ongoing widower, old women, single girls are facing this in every rural area.  Mostly Northeast, and Jharkhand are the two places where women and old people are abused and tortured in the name of witch-hunting.

To prevent witch-hunting there are laws and activists like Birubala Rabha who created awareness against witch-hunting which is nothing but a creation of evil-minded people who want to take benefits out of it. 

 Can Bollywood Work To Lessen Stigmatization Of Women?

Yes, I do think two movies about witches have definitely tried to share a message in women’s protection and independence.  You have guessed right it’s Stree and Roohi, a film by Maddock production. 

In Stree, they tried to show how a woman can protect herself and every woman should fight for her dignity. Why do women in India think twice before going out at night? Why are men safe if they go out anytime? Treating equally all the women and respecting each woman irrespective of her profession, past, caste, or any other difference. In the movie, a witch tried to establish a fear which women face every day. And to protect themselves they write on their walls “ohh stree, kal aana (Lady, come tomorrow)”. I wish women too had something like this in real life to save themselves from their fears.

The movie Stree provided a fresh take on witches.

The second movie Roohi depicted a message, in the end, why do women still need to be dependent on men throughout their life? why doesn’t she have a choice to believe she can take care of herself as long she wants to? She is enough and complete without a man. 

Roohi has also supported the LGBTQ community on why women can’t be better partners than men for women? Have you watched this movie? Did you notice this scene? Do watch, as there is lots of drama and a good comic role played by  Rajkumar Rao, Jahanvi, and  Varun Sharma.

You must be to comment.
  1. puja pal

    this is very bad that still we are living in a country where only women are to be blamed for witchcraft and black magic. even though media plays a lot more activity to spread the rumor and influence people about the existing nature of witchcraft. however, reality is i have never ever seen a witch in my life and i still believe that this are not existed . people have created this to dominate women, to control them and to use them as a remote control device. in India women are given a position of goddess lakshmi ( for their socially accepted activities) but on other side women are also termed as a “chuddail”( when they do something different than others).

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