GUWAHATI, June 6 � There is a need to go for an all-out drive to eradicate the heinous practice of witch-hunting, opine those involved in the campaign against this wicked practice. They also suggest that both the civil and police administrations should play a major role in this respect teaming up with the civil society, to bring an end to this dreaded practice.
The practice is responsible for the loss of many human lives in the past several years. Recently, six persons were killed in Kokrajhar district, while three persons each in Baksa and Udalguri districts were killed in the name of doing away with the witches, locally called daini (female witch) or daina (male witch).
However, the redeeming feature this time is that the local units of the All Bodo Students� Union (ABSU) and the Assam Science Society (ASS) have been trying to generate awareness among the people against this horrible practice, particularly in Kokrajhar sistrict.
The Kokrajhar district administration held a meeting on the issue, involving the senior officers of the civil and police administrations, leaders of the ABSU, All Bodo Women�s Welfare Federation (ABWWF), Bodo Sahitya Sabha (BSS), All Adivasi Students� Association of Assam (AASAA) and the NGOs operating in the district.
After the meeting, the Deputy Commissioner of the district sent a wireless message to the SDOs, Circle Officers, Inspectors of Schools, Joint Directors of Health Services and the District Social Welfare Officers, among others, to organize awareness campaigns and to identify those practising witchcraft.
The ABSU Kokrajhar district unit has been working for the eradication of the dreaded practice for the past several years. The ASS district unit is now working jointly with the students� body. The ASS also held a meeting recently on the issue at Kokrajhar involving the above organizations, the Bodo Samaj and several physicians and gaonburhas (village headmen).
At Hadanbori village under Majbat subdivision of Udalguri district, the ABSU held an awareness meeting and decided to take out a motorcycle procession on the issue to generate awareness among the people of the subdivision on June 8.
It needs mention here that though the May 7, 2011 Hadanbori incident in which two persons were killed, was reported by the media, the May 18, 2011 incident at Khachia Chuba under Bheragaon subdivision of Udalguri district, in which one person was killed, went unreported.
The Kokrajhar district unit of the ABSU is working in the three subdivisions of Parbatjhora, Kokrajhar and Santhaiguri, besides the Gossaigaon subdivision, and the Kachugaon and Dotma Development Blocks, on the issue.
This correspondent talked to ASS� NU Ahmed, Birabrata Das Choudhury and Khanin Brahma, Kokrajhar district ABSU president Lawrence Islary and Udalguri district ABSU general secretary Daobaisa Boro on the issue.
They said that illiteracy, lack of proper healthcare facilities and lack of vigilance on the part of the civil and police administrations, together with absence of any provision for exemplary punishment for the guilty, have been creating a conducive atmasphere for existence of this practice.
Traditional belief that daini or daina do exist has been kept alive by some people practising witchcraft themselves. These people identify themselves as bezs (healers) or soothsayers. The bitter rivalries among the villagers on various issues have been providing a favourable ground for the survival of these bezs and soothsayers.
The discernible presence of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) in the villages is sure to have a positive impact on the people in matters of eradication of this practice, said the ASS and ABSU office-bearers.
They also suggest that for any incident of witch-hunting, the Government should hold the respective Asha workers and the gaonburhas responsible.
The detention of 16 persons in connection with the Kokrajhar witch-hunting incidents is an eye opener in regard to eradication of the practice, they said, arguing that this has acted as a deterrent on further rise in the number of such incidents.
They further argue that the sensationalism resorted to by the media in reporting such incidents also encourages replication of witch-hunting cases.