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Forum launches crusade against witch-hunting

By CORRESPONDENT

PATHSALA, May 18 � It is a matter of surprise as well as concern that witch-hunting is on the rise again in Assam. The practice of witch hunting reflects the status of women in a society. It is a shame for the civilised society. Till now a number of cases of witch hunting have been reported from various parts of the State, particularly from districts like Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Baksa, Kokrajhar, Chirang and Sonitpur. The belief in the existence of witches is deep-rooted, especially in tribal communities. Older women, especially widows, are suspected to have an evil eye and considered unfavourable. These days not only the women but also innocent men are punished in the name of witch hunting.

Even if in the tribal societies the prima facie cause of this villainous and barbaric practice emerges to be superstition and lack of education and awareness, various studies have revealed some other causes which are also equally responsible such as the urge to grab property, settle personal grudge, retaliation against resistance to sexual advances and pave the way for polygamous practice.

Several cases of witch-hunting occurred in the Chapaguri Koklabari area of Baksa district in the last 20 years, where angry villagers hacked to death more than 50 people, which included both men and women and several villagers were forced to leave their respective villages. No organisations or individuals came forward with a mission of eradicating this evil practice till September 2006 in the area. But on September 23, 2006 altogether nine organisations which include CK Primary Boro Sahitya Sabha, CK branch of the Asam Sahitya Sabha, CK Anchalik AASU, Rabang Anchalik AABSU, Silbari Anchalik AABSU, Jalah Anchalik AABSU, Baksa Zila Abaouf and Koklabari Chapaguri Anchalik Bathou Dhouharimari Afat joined hands and constituted an organisation namely, Dainee Biswas Pratirodhi Youtha Manch. Since its establishment, the mancha has launched a strong awareness campaign among the Bodo villagers against this evil practice.

The ongoing campaign has received tremendous support from the villagers and there has been no case of killing in the name of witch hunting since then. However there were some cases where five villagers were forced to leave their villages. �In our village a lady had been suffering from a serious disease for some months. She couldn�t get rid of the disease. Her family members discussed the matter with our village people. Hearing this, the villagers held a meeting and made me responsible and termed me a witch. I was coming from Pathsala and when I reached Simala Bazar, some of my relatives met me there and informed me about the whole incident. I had no alternative but to leave my sweet home, my little grandson and other family members. For several months, I was roaming here and there and one day members of the Youtha Mancha were able to convince the villagers that I am a normal man, not a witch and finally I back to home,� stated Chabin Basumotary, a victim. Thus the Mancha has been holding several awareness camps, public meetings, workshops to motivate the people with the help of the civil and police administration. �Now the number of such cases has been coming down and we have been able to create awareness against witch hunting in the area. The ABSU�s local unit is also playing a significant role,� stated Rabiram Basumotary, the secretary of the mancha. Gobinda Narzary, the Sahitya Akademi award winner, Harihar Das, Karunakanta Basumatary, Anil Thakuria, Bhaskarjyoti Choudhury and several others are working relentlessly in this mission.

The local MLA, Thaneswar Basumatary is also extending full support as advisor of the manch. The mancha has been able to rehabilitate 11 victims so far. In the long run, it is expected that this organisation will be able to make an objective analysis of the root causes of this practice and evolve remedial measures.

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Forum launches crusade against witch-hunting

PATHSALA, May 18 � It is a matter of surprise as well as concern that witch-hunting is on the rise again in Assam. The practice of witch hunting reflects the status of women in a society. It is a shame for the civilised society. Till now a number of cases of witch hunting have been reported from various parts of the State, particularly from districts like Goalpara, Bongaigaon, Baksa, Kokrajhar, Chirang and Sonitpur. The belief in the existence of witches is deep-rooted, especially in tribal communities. Older women, especially widows, are suspected to have an evil eye and considered unfavourable. These days not only the women but also innocent men are punished in the name of witch hunting.

Even if in the tribal societies the prima facie cause of this villainous and barbaric practice emerges to be superstition and lack of education and awareness, various studies have revealed some other causes which are also equally responsible such as the urge to grab property, settle personal grudge, retaliation against resistance to sexual advances and pave the way for polygamous practice.

Several cases of witch-hunting occurred in the Chapaguri Koklabari area of Baksa district in the last 20 years, where angry villagers hacked to death more than 50 people, which included both men and women and several villagers were forced to leave their respective villages. No organisations or individuals came forward with a mission of eradicating this evil practice till September 2006 in the area. But on September 23, 2006 altogether nine organisations which include CK Primary Boro Sahitya Sabha, CK branch of the Asam Sahitya Sabha, CK Anchalik AASU, Rabang Anchalik AABSU, Silbari Anchalik AABSU, Jalah Anchalik AABSU, Baksa Zila Abaouf and Koklabari Chapaguri Anchalik Bathou Dhouharimari Afat joined hands and constituted an organisation namely, Dainee Biswas Pratirodhi Youtha Manch. Since its establishment, the mancha has launched a strong awareness campaign among the Bodo villagers against this evil practice.

The ongoing campaign has received tremendous support from the villagers and there has been no case of killing in the name of witch hunting since then. However there were some cases where five villagers were forced to leave their villages. �In our village a lady had been suffering from a serious disease for some months. She couldn�t get rid of the disease. Her family members discussed the matter with our village people. Hearing this, the villagers held a meeting and made me responsible and termed me a witch. I was coming from Pathsala and when I reached Simala Bazar, some of my relatives met me there and informed me about the whole incident. I had no alternative but to leave my sweet home, my little grandson and other family members. For several months, I was roaming here and there and one day members of the Youtha Mancha were able to convince the villagers that I am a normal man, not a witch and finally I back to home,� stated Chabin Basumotary, a victim. Thus the Mancha has been holding several awareness camps, public meetings, workshops to motivate the people with the help of the civil and police administration. �Now the number of such cases has been coming down and we have been able to create awareness against witch hunting in the area. The ABSU�s local unit is also playing a significant role,� stated Rabiram Basumotary, the secretary of the mancha. Gobinda Narzary, the Sahitya Akademi award winner, Harihar Das, Karunakanta Basumatary, Anil Thakuria, Bhaskarjyoti Choudhury and several others are working relentlessly in this mission.

The local MLA, Thaneswar Basumatary is also extending full support as advisor of the manch. The mancha has been able to rehabilitate 11 victims so far. In the long run, it is expected that this organisation will be able to make an objective analysis of the root causes of this practice and evolve remedial measures.