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In the past 5 years, India has made its prominence felt in the world map, even on the moon and Mars. India became a part of the nuclear club, earned the tag of the world’s largest software exporter, exported the missile, and featured in the list of many countries that has the highest growth rate of GDP.
On the contrary, the country witnessed the heart wrenching episode of a woman being titled “witch” because she could not fulfill her husband’s needs of pleasure. ’Exorcism’ is what they termed this episode.

As luck had it, I had experienced the same at 2016 Ujjain Kumbha Mela. India, Hinduism, Sadhus, Yoga, Kumbha Mela - all are synonymous to the world. Known as the “largest peaceful gathering in the world”, the Kumbha Mela is hosted in 4 different locations in India (every 12 years). The world witnesses the “largest aggregation of religious pilgrims”. In 2016, Kumbha Mela was held in Ujjain. Located in Madhya Pradesh, through the medium sized city Ujjain runs the pious Sipra river.22nd April to 21st May 2016 saw the accumulation of few millions of people.

Near about 14 kms from the city of Ujjain, in Bawan Kund, near the banks of the Sipra River, the “Ghost Fair-Exorcism” was being hosted. Two different viewpoints exist regarding the nomenclature of “Bawan Kund”. Some believe that the name has been derived from “Brahma Kund” where Lord Brahma used to perform his yagna, while others believed that the name has its origin from the 52 wells, which stands erect near the Keshavark temple on the Sipra River. The construction is nearly 1000 years old and has many pillars, wells and other bodies which stands unified and the Sipra River looks like a waterfall as it flows through the construction. This place has a weird aura and a feeling of mysticism surrounds it, with broken stone structures, a damp smell filling the air, cobwebs, muddy puddles and the smell of flowers offered by the pilgrims. On the banks of Sipra, in Bawan Kund, ‘exorcism’ took a greater height, where in the name of religion, people were being beaten up ruthlessly. Thousands of pilgrims from interiors of different states (Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan etc.) had accumulated here in the name of pilgrimage. They had brought their relatives and friends to free them from evil spirits and the exorcists were violently beating up and ruthlessly hurting the so-called evil women, in exchange of money and valuables. Vimladevi from Gaya, Bihar, was unable to bear a child, Sitadevi from MP was not fulfilling her marital duties properly, Jamuna who came all the way from Kausambhi, UP was mentally retarded, Bindoo from MP’s Raisen was marked as an evil spirit because she had problems in her menstrual cycle and many more who fell prey to these unkind acts of brutality. On the occasions where serious mental and physical attention was to be given to these patients, at least a lot of love and care in this case-they were being struck with a knife until they bled, and were dragged to the river to take the “Holy Royal Dip” to free them from the spirits. The exorcists were taking clear advantage of the blind faith the villagers had on them, torturing these women mentally and physically. Their wails, cries, scream got drowned in the sound of the bells and drums. The women were being hauled underneath the water, struck with knives and being dragged by holding their hair strands with the hope that they will be free from all sickness. The question thus arises “Who is actually sick? The tormentors or the tormented? “

We are in the era of globalization, in the era where the social media is creating ripples among the human population, yet in the year 2016, we get pictures of such dangerous acts of hypocrisy in the name of religion, in the name of faith. What about the women who are tortured in this manner? Who listens to their cries? Who listens to what they have to say? None. These helpless souls have no one to speak for them. In their eyes I have observed myriad emotions, pleads, screams, fear, shame, revenge and definitely helplessness.

This is my India; this is my country where pairs of helpless eyes are trying to locate a ray of hope, every day!

by Debiprasad Mukherjee

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