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Banamati `victims' shifted to mental hospital

By Our Staff Reporter

HYDERABAD, FEB. 8. The seven `victims' of Banamati (witchcraft), who were admitted to the Chevella Government Hospital for treatment a couple of days ago, were shifted to Erragadda Mental Hospital here on Tuesday.

They were admitted to the hospital after they went into a `state of trance' and behaved hysterically. They claimed that four villagers had practised Banamati on them. All the seven -- T. Krishna (25), J. Amrutha (21), A. Yadamma (30), A. Sharanamma (26), A. Durgamma (40), Ratnamma (40) and J. Sujatha (30) -- hail from Mirzaguda village at Chevella on the city outskirts. A child was also admitted along with them.

The Ranga Reddy district SP, E. Damodar, said a Hyderabad-based psychiatrist had examined the villagers and opined that they were suffering from a psychological disorder. Following his advice, the police made arrangements to shift them to Erragadda mental hospital.

Villagers' protest

However, shifting the `victims' was not easy. As news spread that they would be shifted to another hospital, angry villagers protested against the move stating that there was no need to shift them to a mental hospital as `they were not mad'.

The police had a tough time convincing them and it was only with the help of a Pargi-based NGO, Jeevana Daata, that the villagers relented.

Meanwhile, the police remain puzzled as to how the problem in the village started. "We are looking at the issue comprehensively and it is a long drawn out process," Mr. Damodar said.

He said that the four persons who were accused of practising Banamati were still under police protection fearing that the villagers might attack them again. The four--C. Kistaiah, J. Jangaiah, A. Kistamma and Padma--had sought police protection after the villagers thrashed them two days ago.

Nodal officer appointed

Mr. Damodar further said that the Deputy Director of Adult Education, Subbarayudu, had been appointed nodal officer to educate the villagers on the matter. The Jana Vignana Vedika too has been trying to make people understand that it is only a superstition that they are falling prey to.

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