Marked by Hot Iron Rods to 'Cure Pneumonia', 2 Infants Die in MP: What Happened?

Police have registered two FIRs after the death of two infants in Shahdol district.

3 min read
Hindi Female

(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of physical violence. Reader discretion advised.)

A fortnight after her birth in December 2022, in Madhya Pradesh's Shahdol district, Ruchita Kol was diagnosed with pneumonia.

By the end of January, when Ruchita showed no signs of recovery, her parents sought the help of a woman, identified as Ramvatiya Charmkar, who allegedly marked the three-month-old infant 51 times, with a hot iron rod.

Ramvatiya, claimed to practise exorcism, and 'performed' the act of 'Dagna Pratha' – rubbing the infant's belly with a hot iron rod – with the 'belief' that it will cure the infant, and is a remedy to pneumonia.

Ruchita's health deteriorated further after this so-called experiment. On 25 January, she was admitted to a hospital attached with the Government Medical College (GMC). Almost one week later, on 1 February, Ruchita breathed her last.


Another 3-Month-Old, Another Similar Story

At least five other cases of similar markings been inflicted on infants, as cure to diseases like pneumonia have been reported in the last 15 days, sources told The Quint.

On 1 February, the same day Ruchita lost her life to an unscientific practice, another three-month-old baby, identified as Shubhi Kol was also admitted to the GMC. Senior officials told The Quint that she had similar markings on her belly, and was suffering from pneumonia.

Police have registered two FIRs after the death of two infants in Shahdol district.

Shubhi was also singed by hot rods on her belly by an unknown woman, after her parents wanted her 'cure' for her illness.

Photo sourced by The Quint.

According to Shahdol Police, Shubhi’s parents said that they too had gone to a local village woman a few months ago after their daughter fell ill. Her condition too worsened after the act was performed.

Shubhi lost her life on 4 February.

Speaking to the media, Raghvendra Dwivedi, Chief Medical and Health Officer of Shahdol said:

“It is true that these two girl children who earlier suffered with pneumonia. It is true that they were marked in the belly, following a malpractice which says that if they are marked (by hot iron rods), they get cured of the disease. Both the children were admitted to the district hospital attached to the Government Medical College. It’s unfortunate that one of them died on 1 February while another died on 4 February."

Ruchita's Body Exhumed

Ruchita's body was cremated her on Thursday, 2 February. However, after another case of marking by hot iron rods came to light, the district administration ordered for the exhumation of the three-month-old infant's body for post-mortem.

Speaking to The Quint, Vandana Vaidya, Collector, Shahdol, said that the death of the children was not directly caused by this malpractice – but due to acute pneumonia.

"The death of both children was not directly due to them being marked by iron rods, but due to the acute pneumonia that they were suffering from. A few more cases of marked children who have now grown up have come to light. We are actively working to spread awareness against this superstition and request the communities to come forward as well.
Vandana Vaidya

What is Dagna Pratha?

According to locals, the marking on the bellies of infants who suffer from pneumonia is called Dagna Pratha. The act, practised by tribals in the region, is on the basis of the belief that the children will be cured of the infection.

Shubhi's father Sooraj Kol told The Quint that he did not take part in the Dagna Pratha. However, he said that there are no hospitals nearby and they have to travel for around 40 kilometers to get medical assistance.

“I am a farmer and seasonal worker. I had two kids, a boy and a girl and we lost our girl to pneumonia,” he said with a low voice. 

When asked about the health care facilities available at or near the village he said:

“There are no hospitals close to our home, the only hospital available is in Shahdol. It is around 40 kilometers from our village.”

Shahdol police have registered two separate cases in the death of both Ruchita and Shubhi under the Section 324 (Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant sections of The Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954. The cases have been registered against Ramvatiya, and an unidentified woman.

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