Kokrajhar: An awareness programme against superstition, especially witch hunting, was organized by Kokrajhar District Police under Project Prahari, Assam Police in collaboration with Mission Birubala, Kokrajhar District Police, All Rabha Students’ Union, All Rabha National Council, All Rabha Women Council, Bebak Rabha Krwrang Rungshung (Rabha Sahitya Sabha), All Bodo Students’ Union, Garo Students’ Union and Rabha National Liberation Front (pro-talk) at Modati playground near Modati bazar under Kazigaon PS on Wednesday.
The awareness programme was presided over by Satish Thakuria, SDO(C), SDPO Parbatjhora and participated by Dr. Birubala Rabha, renowned social activist, Rajen Singh, Kokrajhar Superintendent of Police, Deepak Kr. Das, SDPO Parbatjhora, Moon Moon Brahma, social worker, and other guests. The awareness programme was attended by around 1,200 villagers, mostly belonging to the Rabha community, of Modati Part-III, IV & V, Khopati and Barshijhora. Dr. Birubala Rabha also interacted with villagers about the issue in depth and sensitized them.
One of the problem areas and reason behind the practice of superstitious beliefs such as witchcraft is illiteracy and lack of scientific approach towards any problem in the society. Another grey area regarding the issue is lack of medical officers in Community Health Centres in rural areas for which the villagers suffering from health issues have to go to ojha or bez or quacks for treatment, who are the main culprits behind the systematic branding of victims, mostly women, as witches and holding them responsible for all the evils in the society.
In Kokrajhar district itself there are total 147 sanctioned posts of Medical Officers out of which only 46 posts are occupied and 101 posts are lying vacant. The remedial measures required include establishment of Primary Health Centres in remote villages of the State. If such dimensions health centres are given due emphasis, the practice of witch hunting can be totally eradicated from the society. Schools in rural areas must be established so that children can get their basic education.
Construction of roads and bridges, gearing up of all developmental works to eradicate poverty and to provide basic amenities to the villagers are other remedial measures. Project Prahari is an initiative by Assam Police for participatory development and people-friendly policing to fight social maladies and deprivation. It is an Assam Police Social Action programme for conflict resolution. Under Project Prahari, regular health camps are organized. Top management schools are taking up Project Prahari as a model of change in management with law enforcement agencies as catalysts. The logic behind conducting of the awareness campaign in this location is that this place bore testimony to the ill practice of witch hunting recently.
Sources said on February 19, acting on a telephonic information received regarding confining and assault on three persons in Modati village by some villagers suspecting them to be witches, the SDPO Parbatjhora along with OC Kazigaon Police Station and staff rushed to the PO and rescued the victims – Nirjoy Rabha (50), Parimal Rabha (47) and Sarothi Bala Rabha (44) with grievous injuries. They were immediately admitted to Dhubri Civil Hospital for better treatment. Six accused persons were picked up in this connection. Critically injured Nirjoy Rabha was referred to Gauhati Medical College and Hospital, but succumbed to his injuries on the way to GMCH at Rangjuli.
In this regard, a case vide Kazigaon P.S. Case No. 10/2019 U/S 120 (B)/447/342/326/307/302 IPC, R/W Sec. 4/5/7/9 of Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act, 2015 has been registered and is being investigated under direct supervision of the Kokrajhar SP. Seventeen accused persons have been arrested so far in connection with the case and investigation is going on.
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