food for thought

This is the true story of three women from different parts of Assam, who suffered similar misfortunes. Hailing from Udalguri district, Phuduli’s fault was that her elder sister suddenly collapsed and died of stroke recently. But the sister’s husband and son suspected Phuduli to be a witch who had killed her sister by casting an evil spell upon her. So the two men along with some other local youths beat Phuduli to death. Did this happen because Phuduli lived in a remote village where all kinds of superstitions hold sway? We now move on to a village just on the outskirts of Guwahati. Kati’s brother had died and the village court branded her a witch. The elders ruled that she had poisoned her brother as well as some other persons. Kati was thrashed severely, barely maging to live because some villagers saved her at the last moment. So did Phuduli and Kati suffer because they were simple village women? The experience of Debjani Bora proves otherwise. A tiol level, gold medal-winning javelin thrower, Debjani was dragged last October to the community hall in her village in Karbi Anglong. There had been some recent deaths in the village and a prayer was organised to find out the person responsible. Debjani was accused of practicing witchcraft and beaten black and blue. For years, Birubala Rabha has been fighting a lone battle against this social evil. Now the State government is getting ready to ect a new law to punish witch-hunting. Instead of searching for appropriate crimil law sections to register such cases, the police can use this new law. Accusing or ming someone a witch and harassing that person physically and mentally will be treated as a specific offence. The new law also has provisions to impose community fines for witch-hunting. But the law can do very little if the public mindset does not change. The country is moving towards widespread literacy but something is lacking in our education. Unless scientific temper is promoted strongly in our primary schooling, such social evils will be difficult to uproot.

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