It has been eight years since my neighbours began calling me a witch. With every allegation that I battled against, I understood that witches are poor, witches are Dalits, and witches are helpless like me.
When I was a child, I had heard that witches used magic to manipulate and trick people. There were rumours of girls being possessed by witches in those days. I too was under the impression that witches were dangerous and did as they pleased. However, one day in my 40th year, this society called me a witch.
I was heading out to harvest wheat one afternoon when my neighbours called me over, saying they had to talk to me. I'd hardly come up to them when they hit me on my head with a bucket. As I fell, they kicked me, called me a witch and forced faeces into my mouth. I fainted then.
As I awoke on a bed in Dhangadi Hospital, I couldn't recognise myself. There were wounds all over my face. Luckily, another neighbour, Chandra BK, had taken me to hospital. I panicked when I saw my face in the mirror. There was blood in my vomit and faeces. Had I really become a witch? How did my neighbours see a witch in me? I thought hard but couldn't come up with an answer.
After 15 days of treatment, I returned to find that the village was no longer the same for me. People stared at me and talked amongst themselves. No one spoke to me. Even now they claim that I am a witch and that I can destroy anyone. But if I had such powers, would I have spared the people who forced faeces into my mouth? I still don't have a spell to avenge myself on those who almost killed me.
Two years ago, I was walking past a Thakuri's house. Feeling thirsty, I approached their tap. But he beat me up, shouting "You witch, you low-caste woman, how dare you touch my tap," When I lodged a complaint, the police arrested him, but he was immediately released through the intervention of an MP. In turn, my own sons were locked up on false charges of thuggery. No one in the village said I had been treated unjustly. Without any support, I could not muster the courage to fight for justice.
I hear news from the east and the west of women being abused and burnt alive because they have been labelled witches. I know that this is because they too are poor, Dalits, and helpless like myself. I can vouch for the fact that if we were rich, and those women, no one would have called us witches.
Given the little income we got from our land, my husband was forced to go to India to work. But he has been confined to our home since his eyes grew weak. My eldest son, who went to India to support the family, got killed there. Here in the village, I was made a witch. I have to travel far from the village to find work. After eight years of suffering, the childhood ideas I used to have of witches have been destroyed. Only those without goodness in them accuse others of being witches. Poor people who don't have enough to eat are accused of being witches.
I have a younger son and a daughter, both of whom have grown up now. There are also some in the village who empathise with me. It is only with the support of my son and daughter and a few good souls that I have found strength. I did not leave my village despite the discrimination and disgust people showed towards me.
I believe that someday, this society will realise that I have been wronged. The day will surely come when society will say to me, "Muni didi, an injustice was done to you."