Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
"That day will come"


MUNI DEVI DAMAI in KAILALI


DIRGHARAJ UPADHYAY

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."

READ ALSO:

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Transforming power



1. Chandra Gurung
I read the Nepali version of this in Himal. It was the most touching story I have ever read. Whoever wrote this deserves a lot of praise.

2. Hari Maya Tamang

Such types of events are very common in Nepal where dalit women are mistreated by the society. With education all these evils of the society will disappear. Over 40 years ago in Kathmandu Valley also there was this belief of women practising witchcraft. Even today we celebrate the day for the witches on GathaMangal. We used to hear different stories of the witches, but with education there are no more such stories. The Maoist are supposed to be the champion to eradicate these social evils like untouchability, discrimination, and the emancipation of Kamaiyas. As of today not much has been achieved in this front. What we need is more education in the villages.

 



3. Bijay
very sad... 

Munu didi, lots of injustice had been done to you!




4. Bikash

A drop of tear just fell on my keyboard.

This is my country and my folks!

 



5. Steve
Can't believe these kind of things still happen in our society. Makes me cry.


6. chasing_che

Where are the valley dwellers now, who otherwise would have poured out alll their frustrations against the maoists or some other forr all the mishappenings.???? just a shame on their part......

I always believed and i still believe this is the real problem of the country ....neither the violence or the perpetrators of violence like maoists......if maoists haven't done it some others would have......this canno be stopped...unles our society is so narowly minded and our MP's keep on abusing their roles we are bound to hve violence with more brutality and more fierce motives...we never can, like we never could, easily avert it....we can just work together to mitigate the looming consequences.......simply blaming, complaining or criticizing some one without having the simple understanding of ground reality would  takes us nowhere...



7. Slarti

Leering at the prospect of getting even, aren't you #6?

It appears that none of you have ever seen the inside of a village. Being branded a witch is not exclusive to dalits, having lived in a village, I know for a fact that this insult is also applied to Brahmin women. The point is that it is applied to women, and very rarely men.

I always believed and still believe that this is the real problem of the country....

You believed wrong and you continue to believe wrong. This is not the real problem of the country; this is a consequence and the expression of the problems.

Neither does it have anything exclusively to do with community. If so, she would have not been "suddenly" branded a witch at 40.

Since journalism is meant to express unfounded provocation designed to excite the excitable, and is completely devoid of any insights into the problem, you simply can't know the why of it.

Take for example the story about Sita Tamang, everybody knows that Maoists almost exclusively utilised abduction of children as a method to build a violent terror organisation. What I want to know is how were they bold enough to recruit in this manner and why did nobody consistently challenge and questioned their "political" reasoning for this. How did they manage to approach the villages and a whole host of other things? (If it was about caste Brahmins and Chettri would not make a majority of their cadre.) I don't want to know what happened, I know what happened. I want to know the real deal.

It is easy to talk the dalit line, and the poor line, everybody thinks oh my, what a shame, oh goodness, what disgust, in the meantime, truth and insight into the problem and the larger picture is the first casualty. 

The villain conveniently is a Thakuri. That this would have been the conversation, and that simply drinking off someone's tap would lead to a physical assault just like that, is a load of baloney. Here is the beauty of it, that line is a copy paste from some other lefty magazine. Paste that line in Google and you will get it. Another thing, this is a terrible mistranslation, it does not convey her anguish. Her outrage is worse than what comes through and it is not clichéd at all.

The real problem is far too simple; it is to do with land, and money. Because this woman is proud and because this woman is independent and outspoken, that is why she is being treated like that. That is why someone branded her a witch. Because she would stand up for herself, and for her rights, not because she is a dalit, there are I am sure other Dalits in that village. 

Because we are living in a leftist reign of terror where everything ought to be dealt with by the collective mob, you are not allowed to know that. THE COLLECTIVE WILL DECIDE AND THAT IS EVERYBODY BUT ME.

By the way, if the Maoist had not started and somebody else would, that is just a terrible amount of baloney. If someone else would have started the war with another ideal, surely I would support it;

Because it would be about the right thing and, the right future

 



8. Nep1
@ Slarti
that simply drinking off someone's tap would lead to a physical assault just like that, is a load of baloney. Here is the beauty of it, that line is a copy paste from some other lefty magazine.
All I have to say is, I guess u never ventured outside the valley....

The real problem in Nepal and around the world is that people with power wan to maintain the status qu
o and will do anything for it....may it be Maoists, King, Congress, UML and so on........


9. Slarti
#8, All I have to say is, I guess u never ventured outside the valley....

Then its a shame isn't it. Not only do I not live in the valley, I have also mentioned specifically that I know all of this from personal experience.

I am a bit sick and tired of this status quo thing. If the murderers come to power what are they going to do after 5 years, murder some more people and commit suicide to establish a new revolutionary government, and end the status-quo?

Grow up, please. There is not much time. 

You can gain sympathy some other day and get called a liberal and an intellectual as a bonus. 

This is the time to evaluate very carefully, on the basis of facts, where exactly you stand.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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