Superstitions in Assam

Assam, like many other parts of the country, is witness to frequent killings, injuries, and misery as a result of witch-hunting, a heinous practice and a socially
Superstitions in Assam

Shatabdi Khatoniar

(Cotton University. Can be reached at

Assam, like many other parts of the country, is witness to frequent killings, injuries, and misery as a result of witch-hunting, a heinous practice and a socially sanctioned form of violence. Repeated cases of deaths in the name of witch-hunting have put the laws in jeopardy, leading to a slew of anti-witch-hunting initiatives. The conditions that allow this social threat to continue are a topic of severe concern for every aware mind, and they are often hidden behind superstition. Official statistics indicate that there were 196 occurrences of horrible violence in the state between 1989 and 2014, but newspaper stories and other sources show the actual social reality, which echoes the official data in many ways. The practise of witch-hunting, on the other hand, is not uniformly practised throughout Assam, yet it has deep roots in traditional Assamese culture.

Witch-hunting, which translates to "chasing down a witch who is suspected of causing harm to other people's lives," has caused widespread moral panic and mass hysteria among many innocent people all across the world. The patriarchal perspective of (Dobash and Dobash, 1979) argues how patriarchy is at the root of all crimes, and that women who defy patriarchal cultural norms and defy the archetype of perfect women are frequently victimized (Behringer, 2004, 41). Women have been subjugated and suppressed by a patriarchal society, which assigns women a second-class place in society. Women's participation in family and societal decision-making remains limited. In fact, throughout a woman's life cycle, male members of society make decisions about her life. Stereotypical gender norms designate specific areas as a woman's sphere, limiting her options and awarding her a secondary status. This secondary status also allows male members of society the right to govern women's life as their personal property, justifying any act of violence against them (Bhattacharyya, 2015). Furthermore, the menstrual cycle of women, which is regarded as impure in Indian societies, contributes to exorcism rituals (Vir, 2006). The handling of these cases is difficult, complex, intertwined, and agitated since the entire community, following their traditional religious and cultural belief system, sanctioned the penalty meted out to the alleged witch, although the guilty are rarely punished. Furthermore, the majority of the instances are classified as murders, making case identification much more difficult. The term 'witch' has two connotations. On the one hand, it is used to identify a person who practises black magic, such as a sorcerer, and on the other hand, it is used to identify people who are accused of being supernaturally evil. As a result, a prejudiced worldview develops. The prevalence of witch-hunting among Assamese aboriginal groups may be traced back to their earliest cultural beliefs and traditional values. The targeting of individuals as witches is hampered by several systemic and individual variables. These people are primarily found in isolated places of the interior. Eight of the fifteen communities examined are at least 25 kilometres from the town centre. They are unconcerned with their health and disease treatment options. 67 per cent of those polled say they avoid going to the doctor (Rabia, 1983; Rabia, 2005), and even if they go, they first make sacrifices to the local aid than or deo (local deity/priest) (Das, 2012). Aside from that, the living conditions are filthy, resulting in a slew of inert diseases that are mistakenly attributed to witchcraft but are caused by contaminated drinking water. It should be noted that 90% of households do not treat their water and do not have a reliable source of drinking water. Almost all of the settlements lack adequate sanitation, and mud pits are common. Although toilets were installed in some areas as part of the Government's "Swacch Bharat Abhiyan" effort, their use is limited. Land conflicts between parties appear to be the sticking points in the majority of cases, as do intents to take the victim's property, lay unlawful claim to the victim's property and material resources, and jealousy over the victim's economic status leading to the targeting of a witch. A separated or widowed person in a patriarchal society, such as India, is considered unlucky in society, and this subconscious mind or prejudiced perspective is at the root of such witch-hunting situations. They become an easy victim in the absence of any skilled guardian. Various elements contribute to a complex understanding of witch-hunting and intertwine to target and victimize certain individuals and their close relatives. Outsiders may dismiss witch-hunting incidents as mere backwardness and superstition, but the impact it has on victims' lives is far beyond anything an outsider might imagine. The victim's and families' mental and emotional traumas have left profound and lasting scars on their life. The witch-hunt is a superstitious tradition that has plagued many people's lives for centuries. Many tribal and aboriginal communities in Assam are experiencing recurrent instances of crime today. The practices' genies have their origins in "Tantra-Mantra" rituals that have survived the ages and have a small resemblance to the traditional and customary beliefs of many tribal communities in the state. Accessibility, along with superstitions, fosters situations that result in extreme brutalization of the accused as well as a large number of collateral victims. As a result, it is critical to raise awareness, try to prevent, and protect people from becoming victims of superstitious beliefs that lead to such horrible crimes.

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