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State government fiddles as witch–hunting continues

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  8 Feb 2015 12:00 AM GMT

Many cases not probed, demand for preventive law


* In 2008 – 10

* In 2009 – 3

* In 2010 – 11

* In 2011– 26

* In 2013 – 16

* In 2014 – 4

* In 2015 (Jan) – 1


GUWAHATI, February 7: In the last two decades, Assam has been witnessing a rising graph in the number of persons, particularly women, being denounced as dain or daini (witch) and often hacked to death brutally.

Almost every other day in some village, someone is branded a witch and incidents of witch–hunting take place in full public view as the State government turns a blind eye.

Criticizing the government’s attitude towards tackling the mece, a social organisation med ‘Brothers’, said the government is yet to formulate an Act to deal with cases of witch–hunting, a practice that is prevalent among certain tribal communities which are overwhelmingly illiterate and economically backward, and still staunchly believe in age–old myths and supertural activities, despite numerous awareness drives undertaken so far.

Talking to reporters, Brothers’ general secretary Dibyajyoti Saikia said, “More than 71 people, mostly women, were killed in different parts of the State from 2008 to January 2015. In January this year, one person was killed in Udalguri district in a witch–hunt related case.”

Saikia, however, stated that the unofficial figure of deaths in such cases would be much higher.

The majority of witch–hunting incidents are reported from Kokrajhar, Goalpara, Kamrup (rural and metro), Dhemaji, Sonitpur, Baksa and Chirang districts. Sporadic incidents also occur in Cachar, gaon, Karbi Anglong, Lakhimpur and Jorhat districts. The tribal–inhabited belts of these districts still lack proper infrastructure, healthcare, education and other facilities.

With no separate records of witch–hunting maintained by the Assam Police, it is difficult to corroborate the actual numbers. Unlike Bihar, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, which have laws against witch–hunting, Assam does not have laws to exclusively deal with the problem.

The irony does not end here. According to sources, investigations into 15 per cent of witch–hunting cases registered in the State since 2008, actually met a dead end; the police were not able to chargesheet any of the accused. Meanwhile, many such cases are still to be investigated.

The Brothers general secretary demanded that a law be passed by the State government to deal with such cases in the coming budget session of the Assembly. “On the passing of such an Act, a meeting was held recently by the officials concerned, but the State government must take it seriously,” he added.

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