TEZPUR, Aug 24 � Sonitpur district, particularly its northern part adjacent to the deep forests of Assam-Arunachal border areas is a major habitation of tribal people like the Bodos and Adivasis in the tea garden areas. The people have witnessed as many as 30 incidents of witch-hunting in the last ten years which have claimed the lives of more than 20 persons just in the belt between Gohpur and Mazbat area.
It is very important that though the State Government�s health sector has from time to time claimed hundred per cent success in this area, health facility, education, proper road communication etc., are still a far cry for those who live in these remote areas. Every year, many people die of malaria, diarrhoea, and jaundice etc., in these tribal people-dominated areas. Due to the extreme ignorance of the people following lack of proper education, this area is still today far from the glare of the media. As the people of this belt are unaware of the modern ways of health and hygiene, various diseases including cerebral malaria, typhoid, encephalopathy, encephalitis, meningitis, metabolic encephalopathy, jaundice etc., break out easily among them without their knowledge.
The method of treatment of the patients is also very much illogical. They normally go to the oracle who is locally known as the �Bez� or a person supposed to have magical powers. He makes the people understand that the disease has been caused by some evil spirits controlled by a man or a woman. Such person under suspicion of witchcraft in this backward society is considered to be a bad sign for the people living in those remote areas who try to wreak harm upon him or her. The ongoing incidents are the result of this mentality. Moreover, many families were allegedly evacuated on various occasions by the enraged people on charges of practising witchcraft.
In this regard, Dr Bhogiroth Dey, medical officer of the Dhekiajuli Community Health Centre (CHC) said that people who suffer from cerebral malaria, typhoid, encephalopathy, encephalitis, meningitis, metabolic encephalopathy, alcoholism, brain tumour, become mentally imbalanced and start raving which compel the ignorant people to think that it is a result of witchcraft practising.
The more important thing is that though the State Government has claimed hundred per cent success in the health sector, the health and sanitation facility, proper medical awareness etc., are still a far cry in this area because of which witch-hunting is commonly prevalent among the backward Bodo and Adivasi communities living in the northern part of Sonitpur district. Socially aware people like Jaran Munda, president of Sonitpur ABSU Sunilal Basumatary along with the common citizens of this region are of the opinion that from Gohpur to Mazbat along the Assam-Arunachal border, the lack of health services is the reason behind the prevalence of witch-hunting among the tribal people. In this region though there are many CHCs and PHCs, the people do not receive adequate health services from them.
Though during this season many people die of malaria, Japanese encephalitis, jaundice, etc., in those areas, the Health department has not shown the least activity. In this area, many women die in maternity cases as there is a lack of good gynecological facility in hospitals running in the area. Frankly speaking, people living in the remote areas of this belt are miles away from health services.
It is pertinent to mention here that in yet another incident of witch-hunting in Mazbat area which is adjacent to the Sonitpur district, one Bistiram Boro and his wife Romila Boro were brutally killed on June 12 last by infuriated people labeling them as killers of many people in their village through the practising of witchcraft. Likewise, on September 30, 2006 one Adivasi woman Mangri Tirkye, of Bandarhagi village under Misamari police station in Sonitpur district was brutally killed in the name of witch hunting.
In connection with the incident, four persons � Kinu Soi, Sukram Soi, Jiten Munda and Bipin Tirkey were arrested and after a long legal battle lasting five years, the Tezpur court handed down a verdict of lifetime imprisonment to the four accused, a couple of months ago in a bid to check the problem in the downtrodden society. Such incidents are still common in remote villages and tea gardens of Sonitpur district like Ramnathpur, Tatsal gaon, Bengenabari, Bandarhagi under Dhekiajuli revenue circle, Koilajuli area near Rangapara town, Monabari tea estate and Sakumata area under Biswanath subdivision along with some parts of the Gohpur area in the district.
Almost three-four years back in two separate incidents, five persons were lynched in Sakumata area and five persons of an Adivasi family were buried after they had been brutally killed in the name of witch hunting creating a great sensation among the people.
While talking to this reporter, AATSA adviser Anil Kurmi said that witch-hunting is a social problem, which misleads the mindset of the educationally backward people. Since the Sakumata carnage in the name of witch hunting, we have been trying our level best to make the people aware of it through various programmes. He added that social workers as well as the social organisations and the different government-funded NGOs should work in this direction to make the people free from superstition.