A superstition-fueled incident in Damoh has raised concerns about the violation of child rights

A superstition-fueled incident in Damoh has raised concerns about the violation of child rights

A superstition-fueled incident in Damoh has raised concerns about the violation of child rights

As videos emerged showing a group of young girls paraded naked around the village as part of a prayer for rains, the local administration took cognizance of the matter and launched an investigation.

Damoh: Earlier this month, the local administration in the tribal-dominated Jabera block of Madhya Pradesh’s Damoh district flew into action after videos emerged of minor girls who were stripped naked and made to go around the village [name withheld] balancing a long pestle on their shoulders. 

It emerged that the women in the village had done this to their own girls in adherence to a bizarre tradition calling for rain. The area is facing drought as their paddy and other crops are starting to dry up. The women sang hymns to apparently pacify the angry Indra (a Hindu deity associated with rain) as they walked to the temple Kher Mata where they applied cow dung onto the idol. They believe these actions will usher in rain. 

The district administration took cognizance of the matter and started an investigation into the incident with the involvement of the District Collector of Damoh, local police, Child Protection Department, District Child Welfare Committee and Women and Child Development. The team visited the village and recorded the statements of the women seen in the videos to ascertain if the girls had been coerced into doing it. They were counselled against following superstitious practices like these that are damaging to the children.

“We are investigating the issue. If any kind of coercion has been done in it or if a complaint comes to the fore, then legal action will be taken,” Damoh Superintendent of Police DR Teniwar had said at that time. The station-in-charge at Jabera had been directed to file a report, according to Shivkumar Singh, Additional Superintendent of Police, Damoh. 

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights had also expressed concern over this incident and called for a complete report from the collector.

In these hinterlands of Bundelkhand, many such regressive superstitions exist and are perpetuated in the name of tradition. Frogs are married to each other or women plough the field naked - all so that the gods may be pleased and shower some rain on this drought-struck land. 

S Krishna Chaitanya, the District Collector of Damoh had said that they were treating this particular case very seriously. “If any such information or news comes from anywhere that the children have been forced to do this, or have been done by any other person, then action will be taken as per rules,” he said. “Apart from this, if there is any violation of the rights of the children, then we are ready to take action on that too.” 

The investigation team from the district administration speaking to the villagers about the incident (Picture sourced by Naresh Kumar Mishra)

The district administration, embarrassed by this incident, has stepped up awareness camps in the village warning people against indulging in such superstitions. “This is an evil practice and to end it, we will work on creating public awareness and efforts will be made to stop such practices with the help of NGOs and other organisations,” he said, warning that action will be taken against those who spread the videos and reveal the identity of the children.

A month hence, a case has been registered prima facie against the family members of minor girls under various sections related to sexual offences against children. Along with this, the police have also registered a criminal case against two other people who revealed the identity of the minors through photos and videos following the incident.

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