Sachin Dheeraj Mudigonda’s short documentary ‘Testimony of Ana’ is about a Gujarati woman who was branded a witch and attacked

From Anaben Pawar’s narration, it emerges that the perpetrators had an eye on her property that her father had left her. The documentary was screened at IDSFFK

Superstitious beliefs and practices are often laughed off as harmless, but these sometimes have real-world consequences, even putting the lives of people in danger, especially in rural hinterlands.

Sachin Dheeraj Mudigonda’s short documentary Testimony of Ana, screened at the 13th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) on Friday, tells one such story.

Long monologue

The documentary is structured as a long monologue of Anaben Pawar, who was branded as a witch and attacked by villagers in a tribal area of Gujarat a few years ago. From her narration of the incident, it emerges that the perpetrators had an eye on her property, which her father had left her.

Branding her a witch and driving her out of the village or even murdering her was the best way for them to get hold of the property. But Anaben was made of sterner stuff. She decided to stand up, resist and fight back.

As she narrates the ordeal, the camera pans across the lush green landscape of the village, which does not give one a clue of the evil lurking beneath. In the beginning, she seems reluctant to speak, but soon she opens up about the enormity of the crime some of the villagers had perpetrated.

The villagers and the hired witch-hunter barged into her house one night and violently attacked her after branding her a witch. She was sexually assaulted too. Anaben holds up a cloth bag containing broken pieces of rings and bangles she was wearing that night, as evidence of the assault.

Thousands of cases

Hers is not an isolated case. There have been thousands of recorded cases of women being branded as witches and murdered in villages in different parts of the country over the years. However, only a few, like Anaben, have managed to resist and fight back.

Four of the men involved in the attack were later arrested. When she sings ‘grow up and run away’ to her granddaughter, she is probably not telling the child to flee, but to get educated and find a better life outside the village.

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