On 19 September, members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Jamshedpur freed a young woman who had been kept shackled with chains in Hussaini Karbala Imambada located on the banks of Kharkai River behind Bodhanwala garage in Bistupur Police Station.
The woman’s parents had taken her to the imambada on suspicion she had been possessed by demons. Maulvi Rafique of the imambada had kept her tied. Members of VHP rescued the woman and handed her over to the police — according to a report in Mce Zone.
The 24-year-old woman is a resident of Munshi Mohalla, Makadpur, Parsudih of Jamshedpur. Her family members suspected that she was possessed by ghosts. They took her to the imambada for treatment, where Rafique tied her up in chains. The woman was going through ‘exorcism’ for the last one month. Her father accompanied her during the stay. The woman has alleged that Rafique assaulted her during the exorcism.
‘Woman found in deplorable conditions’
On the day the VHP rescued the woman, the VHP district head, Ajay Gupta, told reporters that the woman had been found in a “deplorable condition” at the Jamshedpur imambada. He alleged that her parents had been brainwashed to convert to Islam. He said that the father and the stepmother of the woman were not supporting the organisation and rather defending the maulvi of the imambada.
“We believe that the woman was sexually assaulted at the imambada. We have an on-record statement of the woman that we may share with you if you want it. It is a sad situation for Jamshedpur that such incidents are happening in this peaceful region to disrupt religious harmony,” he added. He demanded action by the administration against the perpetrator.
“We have footage of the woman being held at the imambada shackled in chains. Our organisation’s member Ritika counselled the woman. We have handed over the woman to the administration. They will keep us posted,” Gupta said.
Woman’s father claimed her younger sister was treated at imambada
Bistupur police station in-charge Vishnu Kumar Raut said in a statement that the woman had been sent for medical examination. The police would continue the investigation once they get the medical report, he said.
He said that the father of the woman had told the police that the younger sister of the woman had been treated at the imambada as she was possessed as well. Her father claimed that she got ‘cured’ by the treatment at Imambada.
What happened when VHP reached imambada
When VHP activists reached the imambada, they found the woman tied up in chains. There were signs of physical assault on her face. When she was asked why she had been tied up, she said, “They think I am mentally unstable. They think there is a ghost in me.”
On questioning Rafique why he had tied her up with chains, he said, “She is possessed by the devil. This is why we have tied her up. She assaulted her father, mother and brother.”
When they asked the self-styled exorcist how he would treat her, he claimed there was a “supernatural power” at the imambada that treats such “patients”.
The maulvi claimed that Karbala had been built at the place in 2004. Meanwhile, the woman alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by Rafique.
While VHP was talking to the woman, her father reached the spot and asked them to talk to him and not to the woman. He said, “I am her father. Her sister is here as well.” Her sister said, “Her mental condition is fine. She is possessed by demons.”
When the father was questioned who told him his daughter was possessed, he did not have an answer. The father claimed, “No one has told me. I am saying that she is possessed by ghosts.”
Woman referred to MGM Hospital
After rescuing the woman, the VHP sent her to MGM Hospital for treatment. Her family was taken along for questioning. The victim was referred subsequently to Ranchi for psychiatric treatment.
DSP PCR Animesh Gupta said that the woman was in a conscious condition when she was brought to the station. She gave accurate information about herself and her family and remembered her name and address correctly, the senior cop said. “The woman has been sent for medical examination,” he said.
Statement of woman during counselling
VHP activist Ritika counselled the victim and assured her that the organisation would support her, no matter what the family said to the police in Jamshedpur. During the counselling session, the woman said that Rafique had kept her tied to the chain and assaulted her.
“He would give me a glass of water and, after that, though I would stay awake, I could not do anything as I felt like I was unconscious. He would take me to the place where he had a lamp and would chant verses,” she said.
When she was asked if her family supported her, she said they did not. “I was taken to the imambada with my father’s permission,” she said.
The father and sister claimed that they had accompanied her all the time at the imambada. When she was asked why she did not go to the police to file a complaint, she replied that as she was held captive.
Statement of woman at Hindu Peeth office
In her statement at the Hindu Peeth office, the woman said that she was given water spiked with drugs and so she was dazed. She said, “Rafique used to tie me up with chains. He was the one who physically and sexually assaulted me.”
Imambada illegal: Hindu leaders
Arun Singh of Hindu Peeth and Golu Azad of Vishwa Hindu Parishad said that in District Jamshedpur, there is a place named Bistupur where there is a Hussaini Karbala Imambada near the river. They alleged that the Karbala was illegal. Exorcism is commonplace at the imambada, attracting considerable clientele every Friday.
“We came to know about a woman who has been tied up there for exorcism as her parents believed she was possessed by ghosts. We learned that she was a student of a good school. She was getting the so-called treatment at Imambada for the last 32 days. She was mentally and physically abused. A local organization contacted us and informed us about the woman,” Singh said. The activists reached there on 20 September morning to rescue the woman.
“When we reached there, we saw her tied up in chains. We made some videos and released her. We then called the police and handed her over to the administration. She was first treated at the district hospital and then referred to Ranchi for further treatment,” He said. Singh further said that it has been over a week that her medical was done, but they did not receive any intimation from the police about the results.
“Why is there so much delay?” Singh wondered. He said he had talked to the policeman in charge of the station 30 min ago. The station in-charge informed him that they had not received any report yet.
Singh said, “We would wait for action from the administration as they have promised us. However, if they fail to take any action, we will do protest against the imambada and urge the administration to take action.”
Azad claimed that the police had received the medical report at least seven days ago. He said, “It is a matter of investigation why Bistupur police station is not releasing the medical report of the woman. Why do police hesitate in informing if the report came negative or positive [for the sexual assault]? If someone asks them about the report, they say it is not important.”