12 held for branding woman a witch

Jaipur, Jan 14 (IANS) Police in Rajasthan rounded up a dozen people Monday for attempting to set ablaze a 40-year woman after branding her as a witch, police said.

The accused include the woman's relatives and members of a village panchayat (council) that ordered that the victim should be burnt alive as they thought she was casting evil spells on the villagers, the police added.

The incident occurred in Junijhar village near Salumbar town in Udaipur district, some 400 km from Jaipur.

"The woman, Kamla Devi Meena, had a property dispute with some relatives living in an adjoining house. They started branding her a witch saying that she was casting evil spirit on other family members and villagers," said a police officer.

The relatives blamed the woman for two recent deaths in the family, the officer added.

"A community panchayat Saturday evening ordered that the woman be brunt alive. Some people even poured kerosene on her. However, a couple of villagers intervened and brought the woman to the police station," said the officer.

Police registered a case against 30 people and rounded up a dozen of them, the officer said.

Cases of branding women as witch and torturing them are rampant in Rajasthan, especially in rural areas.

The Rajasthan Women (Prevention and Protection from Atrocities) Bill, 2011, aims at thwarting women being branded witches in the state.

The bill has proposed a maximum of seven years' imprisonment and a fine for those who grab the land of such women after forcing them to leave their homes.

According to the draft bill, if a woman commits suicide after being called a witch, the accused shall be given jailed for not less than five years, which can be extended to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs.25,000. The fine can be enhanced to Rs.50,000.

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