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Chutni Mahato Was Labelled A ‘Dayan’ & Now She’s A Padma Shri Awardee…This Is How She Smashed Superstition & Patriarchy!

Sixty-two year old Chutni Mahato went from being tagged a 'dayan' to rescuing 125 women from 'Dayan Pratha' (witch-hunt) in Jharkhand!

Chutni Mahato was conferred the Padma Shri Award on November 9, 2021. Tears roll down her cheeks whenever she recalls the darkest days of her life. Back then, 62-year-old Chutni Mahato was not the woman she is today. 

She was branded a dayan (witch) and humiliated by her own people. But she fought back and saved the lives of 125 women from the clutches of ‘dayan pratha’ (witch hunt).

A dreadful past encouraged Chutni Mahato to bring dawn in the lives of women!

A 12-year-old girl hailing from Bholadih village was married off, thanks to the customs that have always been unfair to women. One dark day changed her life forever. In 1995, Chutni Mahato was declared a  dayan (witch)  by the villagers. The reason being, the ill health of the daughter of her brother-in-law.

The villagers blamed her for the deteriorating health of the child. As a punishment, they seized her property. She was even fined Rs 500. But this was just the beginning of the inhumane behaviour of the villagers. She was compelled to drink urine, eat human excreta. Even an Ojha (exorcist) was called so that her soul could be purified. Moreover, her dignity was infringed upon, she was forced to walk semi-naked on the streets of the village. 

Anyone would have given up after facing this level of humiliation. But, Chutni Mahato didn’t. And here is where her true journey of life started. One day, she eloped from the village with her three children. But even after leaving the village, life was not a cakewalk. She struggled to find a place to reside. Wherever she went, the dayan tag would haunt her. Finally, she settled down in her maternal house from where she initiated the wave of change.

Despite being uneducated, she began a rehabilitation centre & rescued 125 victims of ‘dayan pratha’

Chutni Mahato not someone who gave up. She tussled with the entangled strands of life and came out with flying colours. Being an uneducated woman, there weren’t too many expectations from her. But Chutni Mahato is an exception. Instead of just accepting the baggage of superstitions, she fought for the women who went through similar experiences.

Today, Chutni Mahato is a social worker who runs a rehabilitation centre at Birbans Panchayat, where she has rescued 125 victims of ‘dayan pratha’ (witch-hunt). Their work is to provide legal aid to the women who are branded as dayans.

Jharkhand is an infamous state for the prevalent practice of witch hunt, but Chutni Mahato’s initiative has inspired many other states to take a step towards rectifying this superstition. Her impact on society was the reason why she has conferred the Padma Shri Award on November 9, 2021.

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Chutni Mahato has proved that there lies no relationship between literacy and superstitions. Being an uneducated woman herself, Mahato is working for the eradication of superstitions from society. She has nullified the common perception that uneducated people are superstitious.

Chutni Mahato fought the horrible blend of patriarchy & superstition!

Another perception that Chutni Mahato has splintered is that a woman needs a man to accomplish her goals. Her husband didn’t support her when she needed it the most. Today, whatever she is, is because of her hard work and the zeal to refrain the superstitious activities targeting women. 

Most of the superstitions are related to women. Every time a woman is considered a witch. Why not a man? Women are being suppressed for ages and dayan pratha is yet another way to keep patriarchy intact in society. 

Dayan Pratha or witch-hunt is nothing but a way to blame everything on females. This practice is also used by male relatives to usurp land & properties that belong to women.  This has been deeply rooted in Indian societies. Women are held responsible for any misfortune of the family. How can a woman be held responsible for the death of an infant in the neighbourhood? How can she be blamed for her husband’s death? Why has it always been women? Well, these are questions that are unabashedly still unanswered. 

But women like Chutni Mahato keep inspiring us to walk through the right path in life. Superstitions and patriarchy are indeed a horrible blend, but Chutni Mahato sets an example by smashing them both!

Image source: Stills from Instagram videos

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