GUWAHATI/GOALPARA: The Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act, 2015 got the President’s assent in July this year. Will the Act serve its purpose? The answer lies in the kind of public awareness that can be generated on the menace.
With a number of NGOs working in the field for helping people erase superstitions related to ‘witch hunting’, positive results are pouring in from various areas in the State. The latest positive result on the menace is from Goalpara.
The residents of Nolonga Pahar Garopara in West Goalpara restored Janata Sangma, a witch hunt survivor, as a ‘normal woman’ and let her family stay in the village on Wednesday. The development took place after crusader Birubala Rabha intervened in the matter with the help of Mahila Samata Society coordinator Mamani Saikia.
The Goalpara district administration also took initiatives to erase superstitions from the village. The villagers also agreed to pay back Rs 2.50 lakh which had been forcibly collected from Robison Marak, the father of Janata Sangma. Robison was treated as a witch and was allegedly murdered.
Robison Marak was first branded as a witch when a girl, Chandrak Marak (18), fell ill and reportedly dreamt in June 2017 that she had seen Robison Marak, his wife Toddrak Sangma and their fourth daughter Janata Sangma approaching her to kill and devour.
Soon a kangaroo court was called by the villagers and the family of Robison Marak was fined Rs 2.50 lakh. The family had to pay the amount after selling their all sources of agricultural income, including a pineapple garden. The tale did not end there. After a few days, Robison Marak was found dead in a mysterious condition in the village. The incident prompted Janata Sangma and other members of the family to flee the village.
Birubala Rabha and Mamani Saikia took up the issue with the police and the district administration. Several people were arrested and sent to jail. On Wednesday, after five months of the incident, the villagers finally accepted Janata Sangma as a member of their village and rid her of the tag ‘witch’.
As many as 193 people – 114 females and 79 males – were killed after branding them as witches from 2001-2017. During the period, 202 cases were registered against such killings, but the conviction rate is negligible.
(With inputs from our Goalpara Correspondent)
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