An athlete in India’s eastern state of Assam was tortured earlier this week when local authorities decided she was a witch.
Debjani Bora sustained injuries that could prevent her from representing her country in an upcoming international javelin throwing competition. The 51-year-old champion javelin thrower says that a local cleric and several accomplices tortured her after they determined that she was the culprit in a series of deaths in the small, remote village of Cherekali, the Hindustan Times reports.
“A few people in the village died of alcoholism while a jilted lover committed suicide in the past few months. But instead of getting to the root of the problem, some village elders concurred a witch was driving the people to death and organized a puja [ritual]. Midway through the chanting of hymns, naamgharia [prayer leader] Radha Laskar identified me as the witch,” Bora told the Hindustan Times.
According to Bora, Laskar and others then tied her in fishing nets and started beating her. She was able to escape only after sustaining injuries to her chest and back. She indicated that she was worried about missing the javelin competition, which would include a trip to Malaysia.
The local police force did not condone the attack. Laskar “could have targeted the woman for personal reasons,” according to police superintendent Mugda Jyoti Mahanta.
Assam is in the middle of a modern-day witch hysteria. More than 80 people, mostly women, have been burnt alive, stabbed or beheaded on suspicion of witchcraft in the past five years alone.