Woman branded as witch beaten to death

Jaipur, Jan 19 (IANS) A 55-year-old tribal woman was beaten to death by her in-laws after they branded her a witch in Rajasthan's Banswara district, police said Saturday.

The incident took place Friday night at Moti Timbi village in the district, some 500 km from here.

"Veeta Devi was sleeping in the house when her brother-in-law and his family members barged inside and dragged her out," a police officer told IANS.

The relatives started branding her a witch and claimed that she was casting evil spirit on other family members and villagers.

"They beat her up with sticks and iron rods. She died on the spot. When her husband came to her rescue, they held him captive and then fled away," said the officer.

The woman's husband has registered an FIR against three men.

"The accused are on the run. Raids are being carried out at various places in their search," added the officer.

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

The Rajasthan Women (Prevention and Protection from Atrocities) Bill, 2011, was prepared by the state's women and child welfare department keeping in view the increasing cases of women being branded witches in the state.

As per the 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.

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

If a woman commits suicide, the accused shall be given a prison sentence of not less than five years, which can be extended to 10 years, with a minimum fine of Rs.25,000. According to the draft bill, the fine can be enhanced to Rs.50,000.

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