Daya Bheel, a 42-year-old widow and mother of five from Pakistan's Hindu minority, was the victim of an unspeakable crime on December 26, in the southern province of Sindh. The police, who found his body mutilated and thrown in a mustard field, are considering a murder linked to witchcraft.
Daya, a widow in her forties – the age mentioned varies between 40 and 44 – and mother of five children was picking hay in a field with her daughter on December 26. She had asked the latter to take the first pile home, while she continued to make the second. Upon her return, the daughter found her mother missing.
Having only found Daya's headscarf, she went to ask for help from the family, who continued the search, before an uncle called the local police. Helped by sniffer dogs, the police found the body of the missing woman the next day, thrown into a field after having suffered the worst outrages. Daya was indeed raped, beheaded while her skull was dismembered and her breasts cut off.
Police urged to act promptly and scrupulously
Police in Shangar, the capital of the district of the same name, have set up a special team to investigate the crime, and the liberal daily Dawn reports that he was "rigorously requested to make scrupulous efforts" to arrest the culprits.
Indeed, the country's authorities do not always take crimes against members of religious minorities seriously, and this request comes as the Hindu community fears that the investigation may be botched. Aurat March, a Pakistani association organizing marches for women's and minorities' rights in Pakistan, published a tweet asking the authorities to act so that there is no amicable settlement or that the resolution of the case is not delayed.
The investigators initially arrested around thirty people in three days, including one of Daya's brothers and her 13-year-old nephew whom she eventually released. The latter told the media The Rise News being tortured to confess his participation in the crime.
Wizards are among those questioned by the police. She found a sickle at the scene which was apparently used in the murder. This is'an instrument typical of those used in witchcraft crimes In the region. Police in Hyderabad, the second largest city in Sindh province, examine the tool. Call data from the phone of the victim and one of the arrested wizards indicates that they had been in contact. According to the police, Daya's husband died in a case involving a wizard.
The use of witch doctors is not an unusual practice in Pakistan and affects all communities. In August 2021, however, the National Assembly rejected a bill to criminalize such practices and make them punishable by a fine of one million rupees and seven years' imprisonment. In 2015, a man was arrested for having decapitated the body of a woman in a case of black magic. While in 2019, a woman had burned her two children with a candle in a magical ritual.
Support from the government and a Christian organization
Federal Poverty Alleviation Minister Shazia Marri assured Daya's family of support from the Pakistani government, and Minorities Minister Gianchand Esran visited him and handed over a check for 500 rupees (about 000 2 euros) to help him. The British Asian Christian Association, a support organization for persecuted Christians in Pakistan, also visited the family and promised to support him financially.
Bheel – or “Bhil” – is the name of the Hindu tribe to which Daya belonged and which constitutes nearly 9% of the population of Sindh.