In search of peace
27 Dec 2018
"Despite being beaten why did you visit the traditional healer every day", I asked her. She replied, "I yearned I could get well, I thought this was the way I could get rid of the pain from my body and worries out of mind." She had been visiting numerous places and healers so that she could live a healthy life henceforth.
"I feel very weak and had a headache and pain all over my body since my childhood. We had very little nutritious food for all eight members of our family."
She is the third child among five daughters. Eighteen-year-old Rita (name changed) stayed upset all day as she saw her father scold or beat her mother almost every time in the drunken state. She esteemed her father as a cruel when he was drunk. "You didn't give me a son, and all I now have is four daughters in the home”, she relentlessly heard from her drunken father.
She still remembers how her grandparents separated the family after her birth since there was no male child in the home.
“I saw my mother being severely scolded and quarrel at home, I did not like to study neither I wanted to stay at home. I didn't want to live. I was very tired, upset and troubled", she adds.
As she grew up, the family didn't have enough money for food and daily expense. Her father worked as a carpenter on daily wage earning NRs 350 rupee on a day unless he could find the work and all his earning paid off to alcohol. Nevertheless, the family worked at others land but shared the harvesting with the landowner.
"In search of peace I went to India and cities nearby, met with lot of traditional healers, priests, gave offerings to god. I went to many temples but things look good when I went out. I even offered hen to god. As soon as I was back home, I felt shy, uncomfortable and not wanting to speak to anyone again." She looks desperate as she tells me.
And one day she heard that a local of her neighboring village had turned into 'baba' (priest) who could heal anyone with his magical power. There were reports that hundreds of people where already getting out of their problems and people from far villages paid visit to him.
"When I heard this I was happy with the thought that I could regain my health and all of my sufferings will disappear if I once visited him."
She visited baba one day by walking one and half kilometer country road from her home.
23 years old Baba was surrounded by locals in his front yard. Baba's forehead was painted with yellow tika, had Rudrakshya and a yellow scarf around his neck. He wore yellow lungi with a blue full shirt and danced barefooted. Rita felt a ray of hope that he is someone who could treat her, "When I saw him dancing and people worshiping him I felt he was really an incarnation of God."
He pointed Trishul towards people and said, "There are many witches in the society and they trouble innocent people. I can drive the evil with the power of Shiva".
Later, she was invited for treatment inside his home. The room did not had enough light and there were only things for worshiping, also some tika. The baba gave some rice to her that he told was enchanted and asked to eat. After some time she thought she was loosing consciousness, though see was able to see and hear what was happening.
"You are evil serpant, and this need to be taken out of the body, you have felled ill because of this. But do not worry I will heal you and drive this evil thing away", baba claimed. She agreed. "Come here to worship me every day, and one day you will be healed completely", she nodded.
"Now, dance", baba commanded. Baba started dancing with her. Next, she was asked to lie down facing up again and he started beating her with legs on the stomach.
"He used to beat with his hand and legs on my stomach and back. After some time I don't remember what happened to me. I woke up of my unconsciousness, after around three hours. Baba asked me to come back again. I somehow managed to walk back to my home."
This routine continued for nine days. She locked herself in the room and stopped hanging out with friends. After several refusal of food at dinner, her mother was worried and took her to nearest health post.
The doctor examined her briefly and refused for further treatment mentioning she was beaten severely. He asked her to go to the local police station to lodge a FIR. She came in contact with WOREC and then a case was registered in the court. She attended the hearing, and gave her statement infront of judge along with other two girls who fall victim to same baba.
She struggled to answer the questions in court, "I was afraid of seeing the Baba inside and I could hardly answer all the questions. I was also angry with the Baba as I spoke. There were no women inside except me."
At the end of the hearing, the perpetrator was sent to jail for 5 years with fine.
I asked her if she received the justice and could find the healing.
"No, he was sent to jail for very short time, for the crime he committed". Worriedly she continued, "People think that we are receiving money as relief, but my condition is nothing better. Had I have peace in my home, I don't think I would be in this state. I can't go back to my village, in the same way, I used to go before. Life is more miserable now. People do not care about us who had been the victim once, and also people contemplated me a witch."
WOREC records an average 35 cases of witch accusation in a year from its working district.
Harmful traditional practices like witch accusations are feeding upon the living bodies. Young girls and women like Rita are the victims of these practices and they will continue to be prey until women can have control over their own body, and identity and until and unless perspective of looking towards women in this patriarchal society changes.