The Making of a Witch

South Asia has a centuries-long history of making — and killing — its witches. For some women, the crime is independence and liberty. For others, mere existence on the margins.

Imaan Sheikh

October 27, 2020

The Making of a Witch
(Imaan Sheikh)

On September 8, minutes after the arrest of late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty, social media exploded with thousands of celebratory posts. “Finally, the Bengali witch is arrested!” exclaimed one tweet. Chakraborty — whose social and legal witch hunt began almost immediately, and without substantial evidence of her involvement, after Rajput was found dead by suicide in his apartment on June 14 — is frequently described by spectators in this manner, reflecting long-held misogynistic beliefs against tez girls who “control” innocent men for personal, often monetary gains, and destroy their lives, leaving them hollow or dead.

Spectators said she “sucked his blood dry” and destroyed Rajput and his family “with her black magic.” Even mainstream media regurgitated the old trope of the Bengali daini, a demonic succubus of sorts.