Witch-hunting is an ancient concept. Many cases of witch-hunting have been witnessed around the world but sadly it is like an infectious disease which finds its roots to newer regions with time.
The one place it has attached itself to most strongly is our country.
The fact that the Indian society has always maintained double standards is pretty much known. A land where on one hand women are worshiped as Goddesses and considered the “laxmi” of every household and on the other hand are branded as witches and tortured till death, marks the height of such hypocrisy.
From refraining to cut nails after the sun sets to not crossing the road after a black cat cuts our way, these small superstitions have found a permanent place in our heads. And the results are heart-shattering!
What is witch-hunting?
For all who are unaware of this archaic concept, witch-hunting is a practice where “bhopas” or “witch-hunters” believe that whatever calamity or illness that anybody in the village is suffering from is due to the “black magic” practiced by witches most commonly referred to as “daayans”, “chudails” or “tohnis”.
These witches are believed to have supernatural powers by which they target innocent people and children.
The common punishments that these “witches” have to face include complete ostracization from society, inhuman atrocities ranging from gang rape, mob-lynching, naked parades throughout the village to even beheading and burning them alive. Not to mention coercing them to consume human excreta.
Why and where is it practiced?
Definition would lead us to think that pure superstitious fear is the only cause. What with illiteracy high in these remote villages, people surely don’t know any better than blaming an unexplained illness on a poor, helpless woman!
But, no, it is much more messed up than this.
Digging deeper it has been found out that “witch hunting” is practiced on vulnerable women of the society mainly to take revenge, steal their property and obtain their land via illegal means. Some are the pure handiwork of powerful land mafias.
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Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana, West-Bengal, Assam, Rajasthan and Maharashtra are some of the states where witch-hunting is widely prevalent.
Real Cases to Validate their Sufferings
Porni, a 63-year-old woman of Bhimajuli village of Assam was brutally dragged and beheaded in front of her husband and five children because she was branded a witch by a well-known witch-doctor. This incident happened after a child died in their village due to a mysterious illness.
“My step-brother and I had inherited our land after the demise of our father. In a bid to illegally capture our land, my step-brother colluded with other persons and branded me a witch,” says Subhadra Basumatary of Silapara village in Assam.
How convenient, isn’t it?
A 60-year old woman and her 37-year old daughter were killed in Baralagra village in Jharkhand, under the suspicion of them being witches. The mother’s body was recovered with ligature marks on her neck a proof that she was hung pretty brutally. The daughter’s body was never recovered.
As per the Human Right Committee report, 2500 women have been killed in the name of witch-hunting in the last 15 years.
Are their witch-hunting laws in India?
Surprisingly, there are.
Bihar was the first state in India to pass a law against witch-hunting in 1999 named, “Prevention of Witch Practices Act.”
Jharkhand followed suit establishing the “Anti-Witchcraft Act” in 2001 to protect women from inhuman treatment.
Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have also passed laws which make it illegal as well as punishable to brand a woman as a “witch” resulting to upto three years of imprisonment of the accused.
Despite such laws, witch-hunting is practiced without any fear by the so-called “cleansing agents” of our society.
Simply because justice demands evidence and evidence is nowhere to be found in these cases.
Often the witch-hunting is practiced by powerful people which makes it hard for others to speak up even if they want to.
What we actually need is a national legislation against this God-forbid practice.
Until then, vulnerable women of our society will continue to suffer in silence.
Image Credits: Google Images
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