Assam mulls law to check witch hunting

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(Courtesy: iGovernment)

The state commission for women is drafting a legislation to tackle the menace which has claimed 116 lives in the last 10 years

Guwahati: Assam is working on a new law to tackle witch hunting, like Jharkhand and Bihar.

The state commission for women has taken the initiative to draft a legislation to tackle the menace which has claimed 116 lives, including 66 women in the last 10 years.

According to figures with the Assam Home Department, 66 women and 50 men have been killed in the state by miscreants in witch-hunting cases between the year 2001 and 30 June 2011.

In all, 96 cases have been registered in connection with these incidents and 420 accused arrested by the police. Charge-sheets have been filed only in 54 cases so far.

A senior official of the commission said a four-member committee has been constituted to prepare the draft of the proposed Bill aimed at enacting a stringent law that could act as a deterrent to witch-hunting.

The committee comprises Additional Director General of Assam Police Kuladhar Saikia, Director of Law Institute of Gauhati High Court Jeuti Baruah, Superintendent of Police Ratna Singha and a lawyer of Gauhati High Court Shahnaaz Rahman.

The Draft Bill will be submitted to the State Social Welfare Department for tabling it in the State Assembly for enactment.

Witch-hunting incidents mostly take place in remote parts of western and northern Assam among a few tribes, including Adivasis. Those areas are so remote that there is hardly any presence of police administration and where illiteracy and superstitions reign.

In absence of proper healthcare facilities in remote areas, the tribal villagers depend on sorcerers for curing diseases. The sorcerers, who practice magic with ‘evil spirit’, often try to cover up their failure to cure diseases by putting the blame on a ‘witch’ in the village. This often leads to murder of innocent tribal women and their family members after they had been pronounced witch by those witch doctors.

However, in some cases land grabbing is also found to be a reason behind miscreants killing innocent villagers, especially women, after branding them as witch. In some cases women are branded witches and punished along with their family members after they resist sexual exploitation attempts by some miscreants within the community.

At present, most witch-hunting cases are dealt with under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code which prescribes a year’s imprisonment and Rs 1000 as fine for the person/s guilty focusing harm voluntarily.



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