November 2nd, 2016
In some of the remotest parts of Assam, women are routinely branded as witches are killed, raped and sometimes beheaded. It’s 2016, and the practice of witch-hunting is still prevalent in Assam. An incident has come to light where two women were buried alive in Naharbari, Nagaon District in Assam on Monday night after they were declared as witches. They were said to be responsible for the presence of insects in a village well.
The women identified as Sagu Gaur(60), and Salmi Gaur(48) were pushed into the well by their brothers Basu Gaur, Sanu Gaur and Kumar Sanu Gaur. The women were buried alive by dumping mud over them.
The accused Basu and Sanu have been arrested while Kumar Sanu is on the run. The accused have also said to confess their involvement in the crime.
“Sagu and Salmi used black magic to infest the well with insects from which we drink water. Last night we caught them and buried them alive,’’ said Basu to the local news channels, as reported by Hindustan Times.
What is Witch Hunting?
Witch hunting involves labelling of people as witches and the victim who is branded as the witch is subjected to immense torture by beating, burned and sometimes are also forced to parade naked in the village. An ‘Oja’ or a ‘Bej’ or a witch doctor keeps the victim in his observation and lays the blame on a villager who is then labelled as a witch. The victim is then thrown out of their homes, beaten up and even killed in some cases.
Crusader against Witch hunting
Birubala Rabha has been tirelessly fighting the cause of witch hunting. She started crusading against witch hunting after a quack almost killed her son in 1996. Her son was denied medical treatment. She realised that till people are not made aware of the medical care and the basic amenities, witch hunting will remain a part of society.
Why is this practice prevalent?
There are a lot of reasons behind this, but mainly due to lack of education, superstition, orthodox hooplas, health care deficits, poverty and lack of awareness this practice is still prevalent.
Laws against Witch hunting
Assam’s legislative assembly passed a bill to prohibit witch hunting in August last year. The bill made the offence non-bailable with provisions for arrests without the court warrant and trails in fast-track courts. It also stipulates up to seven years of imprisonment for anyone branding someone a witch, fines ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakhs and life imprisonment if the person branded a witch commits suicide.