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17 Nov 2021

Community Institutions Prevent Witchcraft

Empowered institutions ensure the sustainability of social change remains in communities for a longer time. Witchcraft or Daakan is a very old social evil found across various parts of the country. Often widowed, tribal, or Dalit women in villages are branded Daakan or witches by a small group of people. The reasons can be illness of a community member, crop failure, cattle not giving milk, or any other unpleasant news. The woman is assumed to be the reason for the unfortunate event without much investigation and then is brutally tortured, harassed and beaten up.

Babri is a small village in Kherwara block of the Udaipur district (approximately 80 km) away from the city. Seva Mandir has not been actively working in the village for the last five years but the village institution committees meet regularly to talk about village issues with elected sarpanch and other members. Recently when the internal dispute between two families took a violent turn, including an allegation of a daakan, the committee intervened to resolve it peacefully ensuring the dignity of the woman.Rama Damor* is a 60-year-old tribal widow who lives in Babri with her sons. The sons keep migrating for work to Gujarat most times of the year. Since some time Rama and her neighbors were not in good talking terms. Ratna* the daughter-in-law of the neighbor was suffering from health issues since the last year and her condition was deteriorating. The fear of getting Covid-19 infection if treated in hospital has been a big fear in village communities, especially after the second wave.

Fuelling from the past enmity and the anxiety of deteriorating health condition of Ratna, the family members alleged that it was because of Rama-the dakaan. In most cases, a myth like this spreads like forest fire. But as the news travelled to committee members, they urgently called for a village meeting. GVC president Kavaram Damor says "There was already a lot of violence and disruption happening between the two families. Unnecessary blocking of roads, verbal fights were creating problems for others. But when we heard about the allegation of Dakaan on Rama ji, we decided to quickly intervene."
"In the village meeting, we heard both the parties. The fear of getting proper treatment made the health condition deteriorate. We counseled both the parties and immediately arranged for treatment." shared Meena Damor, sarpanch of the village.

After getting treatment the health condition of Ratna became much better and the allegation of dakaan dissolved. The proactiveness and timely initiative of the institution leaders helped in preventing violence and ensuring peace back in the village. "Although we have government act against witchcraft now and Seva mandir has worked extensively on its prevention too, the social evil is very deep-rooted. Only strong and aware village group can ensure women are completely safe from this evil" shared Kanhaiyalal Pandor, team member.

*names changed to ensure confidentiality




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