Shaman poisons women to test for witches

An Indian shaman who allegedly forced women to drink a potion to prove they were not witches has been arrested. Nearly 30 women fell ill after they were rounded up in Shivni village in central Chhattisgarh state on Sunday and made to drink the herbal brew.

A senior police officer told the BBC that six villagers had also been arrested.

Witch hunts targeting women are common in east and central India, and a number of accused are killed every year…

Police spokesman Rajesh Joshi told the BBC that an 18-year-old villager was accused of witchcraft because she had been unwell.

“Her father Sitaram Rathod and other villagers suspected that it [her illness] could be due to an evil spell cast by a witch,” Mr Joshi said. “They [the villagers] called for an ojha [witch doctor] to ward off the spell.”

Authorities said the shaman, named as Bhagwan Deen, had been helped by a few other residents as he rounded up nearly all the adult women in the centre of the village…

“The shaman then forced the women to consume a drink that he had made out of a local poisonous herb,” Mr Joshi said. “He said that after drinking the brew, the real witch would voluntarily confess.”

Of the nearly 30 women taken to hospital after the incident, around 25 women have since been discharged.

But police said five remained in hospital, including a 70-year-old woman who was in a serious condition.

Reflect just for a minute that the differences between this particular tale of a witchhunt, superstition – ain’t a whole boatload different from superstitions perfectly acceptable to your neighbors, my neighbors, a whole bunch of registered voters, eh?

Giving a mobile voice to India’s villagers

In a remote corner of rural India, a new experiment using mobile phones is bringing people news made by local villagers. The BBC’s Geeta Pandey travels to Rajnandgaon district in the central state of Chhattisgarh to see who is tuning in.

A group of villagers sit on a shaded platform on a hot afternoon in Mirche village…

Listening to their complaints and grievances are Bhan Sahu and Budhan Meshram, who are “reporters” or “citizen journalists” for CGnet Swara (Chhattisgarh Net Voice).

CGnet is an attempt to cater to people who are on the wrong side of the digital divide, says Shubhranshu Choudhary, a former BBC journalist-turned-activist and the brain behind CGnet Swara.

“We are providing a new platform which the villagers can use to talk to each other and the outside world about issues that are important to them,” he says…And the technology, developed by Microsoft Research India and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is simple.

“Reporters” call a Bangalore number to upload a news item and a text message goes out to all the phone numbers in the contact list and anyone who wants to hear the report calls in to the same number and the message is played out…

CGnet was launched in February and Mr Choudhary says the response has been overwhelming.

RTFA. Truly interesting anecdotal tales of participants and politics, people finding a voice they know is their own.