Elderly couple killed on suspicion of ‘witchcraft’ in Birbhum district

kolkata: In an alleged case of ‘witch hunting’, an elderly couple—Pandu Hembram and Parbati Hembram—of Scheduled Tribes VIll was brutally killed in Noapara, Sainthia under Birbhum districts by the villagers.

The incident occurred in Bengal immediately before the visit of the President of India, who also belongs to a Schedule Tribe community. It is also learnt that the President of India is scheduled to visit the district where such a barbaric act allegedly took place on March 25.

According to reports, Pandu Hembram (62) and his wife Parbati Hembram (52) were forcefully taken to the village ‘Salishi Sabha’ (a kangaroo court) on the allegation that they were demons and witches and a ‘misfortune for the entire village.’ At the Salishi Sabha, they were mercilessly beaten up. Parbati Hembram, being unable to sustain such torture, died on the spot.

With severe injuries all over the body, Pandu Hembram lay there suffering with pain and was rescued only after several hours.

He was taken to Bolpur Hospital where he was declared dead. Attempt was also made to burn their bodies. But it was not possible due to the protest by the local people at the Burning Ghat area and the deceased’s relatives.

The occurrence of such an incident in the district— to which Rabindranath Tagore had dedicated his whole life — has raised several questions. In every village of the state, there is a Panchayat Member who is responsible for ensuring no person within his area is facing social injustice. Thus, the incident puts forth the question that where was the Panchayat Member when the deceased were being subjected to assault and torture.

Moreover, Sainthia Police Station is barely 9 kilometres from Noapara village. So, the question remains as to why the local police station did not receive any information about the barbaric act?

Another obvious question is why Bolpur Subdivisional Hospital did not inform the police immediately when the victims were brought to its premises? Who were given the bodies for cremation?

Following the incident, an FIR was lodged on March 26. However, it has been alleged that there is no mention in the FIR that it is a case of ‘witch hunting’.

“In every district, there is a designated officer who hails from the Scheduled Tribes and is responsible for ensuring that no atrocity is inflicted upon any member of Scheduled Tribes. Why was the complaint written by a non-Scheduled Tribe person? The answer is unknown. The Calcutta High Court in Writ Petition No.27093 (W) of 2015 issued several guidelines following the judgement of the Apex Court passed in Gaurav Jain Vs. State of Bihar and Ors. reported in 1991 Supp (2) SCC 133 but none of the guidelines have been followed in this case,” alleged experts.

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