Nepali Times


In November Jug Chaudhary, a 30-year-old mother of four children, was beaten up by her family members and paraded naked around a village in Kailali. They dragged her out from her home, beat her mercilessly and then forced her to eat human excreta. Her mother-in-law's brother had just passed away. She had been accused of putting a spell on him that caused his death.

When Chaudhary's husband, a labourer in India, returned the couple went to the police station but could not file a complaint. "They said it was a personal matter, it should be solved in the community." Jug Chaudhary did not receive justice. She is living in the same village, in the same Dalit community as those who accused and assaulted her.

Chaudhary made the journey to Kathmandu to talk at a public forum last week. It is extremely difficult for her to talk about what she went through publicly. She has to stop many times and her voice cracks when she describes how helpless she felt when she realised there was noone she could turn to.

She has now decided to leave her four children in the village and move to India to look for jobs. But she has this to say:

"I came all the way to Kathmandu to talk about this because I do not want other Nepali sisters to go through what I did."

Five other women from Dalit and other minority communities in Lalitpur, Saptari, Siraha, Kailali, Sunsari and Makwanpur also speak at the forum. Each was branded a witch and humiliated in front of their communities. In each case the perpetrators have been let off the hook. Noone has come to apologise to the women for treating them like animals. They are awaiting justice, but living in fear of being targeted again. "I can't sleep because I am afraid they are going to come back for me," says Chaudhary.

These are not the only cases. But we only hear of those cases where brave women actually talk to journalists and file cases with the police. There are thousands of Nepali women who quietly bear the ordeal of being labelled a witch. The victims mostly belong to largely illiterate, extremely poor Dalit communities, considered untouchables in Nepal.

Nepal's legal system does not have provisions to punish those involved in witch-hunts. If a complaint is filed and the guilty apprehended they are imprisoned for a short duration and slapped with a fine. The Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare and Nepal's Women's Commission are only just recognising the legal vacuum and have drafted laws against the practice. But we are still a long way from actually having a law that fully addresses this problem.

However, Nepal has been a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women since 1991. This international convention has clear provisions against gender violence. The state is obligated to amend domestic laws to conform to the spirit of the convention, follow the convention to the letter, or provide legal redress in cases where rights have been violated. Nepal has also signed nearly two dozen conventions on human rights, all of which touch upon gender violence. So to say we don't have laws in place is a cop-out, pure and simple.

Witch-hunting is an extreme form of gender violence and the reason it is not taken seriously is because the victims are usually from marginalised communities. Nepal's gender movement has made amazing strides, but it has done little for this community of victims.

Activists in Kathmandu can push for laws against witch-hunting while those in the field can work to spread awareness against the medieval superstitions that target these women. The Nepal Police, too, needs to include a chapter on how to address crimes related to superstition in their training manuals.

Three years ago in June, the interim parliament declared Nepal an 'untouchability-free nation'. Such empty proclamations mean little to women like Jug Chaudhary. This year, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal acknowledged the state's failure to deliver on its promises, saying, "it is unfortunate that we haven't been able to implement this declaration in practice."

1. Arthur
According to this article it is necessary for activists to "push for laws against witch-hunting" and "spread awareness" of international conventions in order to prevent such incidents where a woman was "beaten up by her family members and paraded naked around a village in Kailali. They dragged her out from her home, beat her mercilessly and then forced her to eat human excreta". This is very hard for a foreigner to understand. It seems to be some sort of "NGO mindset" no different from other types of feudal backwardness. To prevent such incidents it would make more sense to forget such "brave" articles promoting the NGOs and instead mobilize the YCL.

2. Sargam
If the word witch-hunt exists it is not a word invented by Nepalese. It simply drags us way back to the middle age when so called developed countries like Italy invented the astounding Catholic Church witchcraft process tainted with obscurantism. It is so sad that some official judiciary actions were not immediately set off so as to make it a telling example of new law and order. It shows how much Nepal requires a political and social aggiornamento.

3. jange
This kind of opportunistic revenge taking is bound to happen in a situation where the Maoists have not only been given free reign to murder, loot and extort but are considered revolutionary by people who should know better. It is not a coincidence that these types of events have increased since the Maoists started their murder, loot and extortion.

4. buzz
Arthur, Your opinion about mobilizing YCL is against law and democracy. YCL does not have authority. It is a job of police. YCL is criminal wing of terrorist organization Maoists involved in extortion, kidnapping, murders, smuggling etc. But your commie brain would not comprehend this.

5. Arthur
Above we see the various forms of feudal mindset at work that allow feudal practices like beating and humiliating witches to continue. First a journalist calls for the usual donor funding seeking response that achieves nothing - legislation against what is already a crime and "consciousness raising". Then Sargam fatalistically says it is "so sad" and complains, in english, that "witch hunting" is a foreign concept. Then jange repeats his usual mantra on "murder, loot and extortion" and imagines that such incidents have increased "since the Maoists" because now people actually notice them (at least the article mentions that there are thousands of such cases and we only hear of a few, from which jange could guess that this was nothing remarkable in old Nepal). Then buzz says organizing people to actually confront the witch-hunters and the police who protect them would be "against law and democracy" because that is a job for the authorities, (who are the police themselves). Nepal still has "20 layers of apartheid" with even the Dalits at the bottom oppressing each other. But the worst of these layers are the separation walls in people's minds that prevent actually seeing both the reality that exists and the reality that it can and will be changed by people's action.

6. buzz
Arthur, Your above comment proves you cannot comprehend beyond the failed philosophy of communism. Even in China capitalism rules. During Mao era, there was famine in China which killed millions because of failed policies. There is apartheid in Nepal. Maoists are not messiah to end it. PERIOD. Look at their track record. They want one party communism, a dictatorial regime. Their brutal attacks against dissenting voice is proof of that. Recent forceful bandh is another example. Arthur, why do not you tell me, whose job is to maintain law and order? One thing Nepal does not need is any foreign idiot barging in our internal affairs. What do you know about apartheid? Your Anglo name definitely makes it really funny to hear about apartheid. Peace in Nepal and my middle finger up yours Arthur

7. buzz
To add to my initial comment, if its ever get published (since this site notoriously censors) I want ask why the hell maoists do not bring any legislation in the parliament? Oh yes they are too busy keeping the parliament hostage making a mockery about democracy and rule of law.

8. jange
Mr. Arthur- It is necessary to impress upon Nepalis that violence will not lead to political, social, or economic progress. Hence the constant refrain to Maoists' murder, loot and extortion. The self styled "revolution" of the Maoists has been an unnecessary distraction that has pushed back the political, social, or economic progressof Nepal by at least a generation. It is difficult enough to work in Nepal in the best of circumstances. We really do not need a mafia organisation posing as pseudo revolutionaries murdering, looting, and extorting to make a difficult task even more difficult. However, you are right about the mantra part. I suggest that this does become a Mantra and every politician at the beginning, middle and end of his speech should say it- "political, social, or economic progress cannot be achieved by violence. Violence is detrimental to political, social, or economic progress". In the witch hunting context the witch hunters' methods and mode of thinking are no different to that of the Maoists- using violence to achieve their ends.

9. May
So, Arthur, you are always right and everyone else is wrong. And you have the answer to everything with your totalitarian commie brain.

10. ashuosh
The doctrine of development runs deep in certain circles, the nuts and bolts of the anti-politics machine.

11. Sargam
As of now a goon starts searching in the writings of others his utter deficiency in the knowledge of societal events; all of a sudden there is a tilt that occurs in his pea-brain to search in the past as to what made the fame of the historical rhetorics of Marxism and Maoism. Here we find him desperately searching to impress us with his vain try to bring us into the field of feudalism. Feudalism is dead and burried since the middle ages. We want to explore the new horizon of interests of our time that could add to the knowledge of our mind so that if possible we could extend our helping hand to improve the present situation of Nepal. Nothing but something concrete materializing, you got it? Otherwise his 'master's voice' will order him to be obliged to dispense with his services. There is a saying that goes as follows (in Nepali): " Kukkurko puchar barah barsa dhungroma rakhe pani tedroko tedrai." That means the dog's tail remains always curled even if you put it for twelve years in a bottle.

12. Arthur
No May, only those who pretend that "political social and economic progress" can be achieved by donors paying people like jange to sing NGO platitudes as a mantra are wrong. buzz can now proceed with his "legislation" and jange with his mantras but women will continue to be beaten as witches until the witchunters are forcibly repressed. Study a little history and you will learn that feudalism was suppressed in the West by revolutionary violence and only then was political social and economic progress unleashed. The democratic revolutions in Britain and France were much more violent than anything Nepal has seen and the American war against the slaveowners makes Prachanda look like a disciple of gandhi.

13. jange
Thank you Mr. Arthur for your logical consistency. So, you think importing NGO platitudes (presumably from America/Britain/France) and applying them in Nepal will not work but importing revolutionary violence from those very same places will work. It looks like you have a deep knowledge of history. Surely then, the intelligent thing to do would be to learn from that history so that Nepalis don't have to repeat the same mistakes. I am sure Nepalis would appreciate the lessons that you have learned from history and advice on how to do things better. Or, do you think that the only way to achieve "political social and economic progress" is by violence?

14. Arthur
Yes jange, "the intelligent thing to do would be to learn from that history so that Nepalis don't have to repeat the same mistakes". Nepal's reactionaries were not intelligent enough to avoid repeating those mistakes once, so there was a People's War. They now have a chance to avoid repeating those mistakes a second time, by accepting civilian supremacy and carrying out the peace agreement to democratize the feudal army. If instead you cling to it as a last hope against the people, social and economic progress will still be achieved in Nepal, and women will not be beaten as witches forever, but the changes that must come will come violently.

15. rishav
Abuse and ill treatment of women is not anything new in Nepal. The difference now being that a few women have finally been able to speak about it thats all. There is no political reason why they have been able to come forward, may be the aide of womens groups and journalists have brought this issue to our attention. I have recently seen a channel 4 Uk documentary of the ill treatment of young nepali widows, very upsetting to see what these women folk have to go through. The current government policy of setting a side a few rupees for men to marry widows really tells you their mindset in dealing with the ill treatment of our women folk. I would really hate to see the fate of our women folk to be used as a political issue for our parties to gain points over each other. I feel that all parties need to sit down and realise what is happening and take the necessary steps forward.

16. buzz
Arthur, Dictatorship cannot be a substitute. Your mantra of communism will end all social evil is freaking hilarious. Whom are you kidding? Your arguments do not have substance. Show facts and logic instead of dead philosophy which has failed miserably. How does your example of US, UK and France are applicable in Nepal? They do not have communism.

17. Arthur
buzz, the article is about witch-hunting. you have nothing to say about what should be done. instead you string together phrases on your favorite topic at random and with no connection to anything anybody else has said. no wonder you are called "buzz".

18. buzz
Arthur, How convenient, isn't it? You are dragging the subject of witch hunting to communists propaganda. I went straight to the bottomline. You don't have any substance so you are going after my nick. How matured? Get a life.

19. Manfred
Sorry, witch-hunting is stone-age mentality, has nothing to do with political orientation but rather reflects the inability of society to deal with wrong-doing, which in the year 2010 can only be declared sick & barbaric!

20. Manfred
Ehmm, my comment "is waiting moderation"? - Do you mean "censorship"? - This is really stone-age journalism!

21. Satya Nepali
Jange, I'm no fan of donors and NGOs, but absolutely enjoyed your comment no. 13. ..Arthur, I'm really beginning to doubt your 'foreign' credentials...

22. Arthur
Re 21, being foreign means that I do not speak any languages of Nepal and therefore cannot have a deep understanding, no matter how much I read about Nepal in english. That is not a "credential" but a disability. But some things are easy to see from outside. In particular it is easy for a foreigner to see that the "democratic", "non-violent" pose of so much of Kathmandu's middle class goes together with a fatalistic toleration of medieval barbarity like witch-hunting, expressed by idle chatter about "legislation" and "consciousness raising" that only provides jobs for that class instead of actually supporting the necessary forcible suppression of witch-hunters. The Maoists look "alien" to you because you are aliens to the modern world. From a "foreign" perspective they look like fellow citizens of the 21st century who would forcibly suppress witchunting like any other modern, "foreign" person, instead of "democratically" tolerating it.

23. buzz
Arthur, You are full of it. You are hypocrite. You are talking in a way that Nepalis have never been in any foreign land. What do you say about prevailing racism in western Europe and USA. What do you say about assassination of abortion doctor of Kansas by domestic terrorist? What do you say about FOX news channel in USA? What do you say about racial riots in Australia? Whom are you kidding?

24. Arthur
buzz, we are not discussing racism in other countries but witchunting in Nepal. But certainly exactly the same tactics are used by defenders of racism in Western countries as you are using to defend witchunting in Nepal - they will point to some other problem, somewhere else, or else call for "additional legislation" instead of actual suppression. But generally speaking they are less successful than in Nepal. Racist crimes do often actually get punished instead of being treated as a "personal affair". As for Fox news it is correctly regarded as backward and reactionary in the USA, but it might be considered "extreme left" in Nepal. For example it is difficult to imagine even Fox News proposing that the response to women being beaten and humiliated should be pass new laws or "spread awareness".

25. Neil J
Forget all this pro Maoist, anti Maoist, reactionary, revolutionary, nonsense and focus on the facts. An innocent woman has been severely assaulted and forced to eat human excrement. You don't need new laws to combat witchcraft. You need to enforce your existing laws. Until you can maintain even basic law and order you country will be broken.

26. buzz
Arthur, I am not defending withchunting in Nepal. This should be dealt based on prevailing laws. If the laws are not enough, introduce it through proper channels. Make the system work. Nobody should be above system. Not even your God Maoists. You arguments do not have any substance. Your idea of maoists being messaih is a fallacy. And Fox News is a No.1 News Channel. USA elected Bush twice. Racist crime do not always get punished as you said. And I am not defending this writer either. She is idiot.

27. Arthur
The article explains clearly that the police refused to act: "They said it was a personal matter, it should be solved in the community." This means the police are protecting the witch-hunters. There is no "proper channel". Force is required to establish a system. The system required must intimidate the witch-hunters and their protectors so that they are afraid to behave this way again and the "witches" feel safe to live proudly in the village. Both the police and the witch-hunters directly responsible should be captured, paraded through the village, forced to apologize to the "witches" and required to pay compensation, if necessary through forced labour. This will be denounced as violence, looting and extortion. It will work.

28. Arthur
Elsewhere: A women is lying in Mahakali district hospital with first degree burns all over her body after her husband set her on fire for reasons unknown. In Kapilbastu, a woman was refused food for weeks and forced to toil the fields as her body withered away because her in-laws weren't impressed with the dowry they received. In Nuwakot, a man slit an 84-year old woman saying she had killed his mother using black magic. "She lived to be 84 years old because she was a witch," he told the police.

29. Anuj
I agree with Neil J..some of our commentators are missing the point and seems their arguements does not carry much substance and hey BUZZ you can't blindly say that the author of this article is "idiot" just like tat. Have some decency and this statement of your's make whole of your arguement meaningless and crap. do u realize that?? Arthur has reasonable arguement. What will each one of us do if someone near and dear to us is branded "Witch" and "paraded naked"? Just simple, i might in a blind fury do what i am supposed to do ( u can imagine!!!). However, that doesn't solve the problem so STATE has to act meaningfully and severely punish those culprits...

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)