GUWAHATI, July 16 - Near three year after the State Assembly passed it, the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015, got the President of India�s assent clearing the roadblock for its enactment.
Administrative stakeholders and civil society organisations fighting for a strong anti-superstition law have hailed the final approval at a time when the State has witnessed some chilling superstition-induced crimes.
The legislation, considered the strictest of its genre in the entire country, not just intends to rein in the menace in the name of hunting down the persons labelled as witches, but has also made offences within its ambit �cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable�.
State Director General of Police Kuladhar Saikia, who has been involved with community policing since long, said that different stakeholders fighting the menace of witch hunting have been looking for some kind of legal solution to this issue.
�Opinion makers, NGOs and even the law implementing agencies have had expressed the need for a separate legislation for an effective intervention in the legal structure as well as community engagement,� he said.
Saikia has led the �Project Prahari� of the Assam Police launched in 2001, especially combating witch hunting and other social prejudices.
Sent to the President in December 2015 for approval, the Bill was referred back to the State to review some of its strict penal provisions.
In June this year, two Guwahati youths were lynched in Dokmoka of Karbi Anglong by an irate mob on suspicion of them being the �rumoured� child-lifters. Several incidents of killings and torture in the name of witch hunting were also reported in past two months.
Mission Birubala � founded by anti-witch hunting activist Birubala Rabha � is all braced up to launch awareness drives about the new law and against this pernicious practice in four sensitive places this month.
�The move has been planned with the Assam Police and All Bodo Students� Union (ABSU) in Dokmoka, Baksa and Kokrajhar districts and Misamari near Tezpur. The activists need to be more alert about spreading awareness at community level and monitoring the implementation of the Act on the ground,� Birubala Rabha said.
A number of women organisations of the State, including the North East Network, had given several representations to the State government to expedite the process of the enactment of the bill.
Even after the Presidential nod, a lot remains to be done in this regard, including the gazette notification, drawing the State rules with adequate budgetary allocation to implement it, and appointment of nodal agency to implement and monitor the Act.
Social activist Dibyajyoti Saikia, who has been leading an anti-superstition campaign in remote places of the State as well as many other parts of the country through his organisation Brothers, have expressed satisfaction over the bill getting the required approval.
�With the experience of being closely associated with the issue of witch hunting, I have strongly felt the need for legal measures to control this menace. The legislation, if implemented properly, would certainly give more teeth to the police as well as social organisations to fight with a renewed vigour. The law does not just speak about penal provisions, but also lays a mechanism for effective community intervention,� he mentioned.