The Witch Hunt: A Superstition or Conspiracy?
Witch hunt is an old tradition considered to be driven by superstitious beliefs of people in rural India. The woman who is perceived to be practicing the witchcraft is punished severely by the whole community. All of a sudden she is declared to be a “Dayan”, “Chudail”, “Bhootni”, “Dakin”,”Bhootdi”,”Chilavan”, “Opri”, “Randkadi” or “an evil eye” rather than a simple human being!
According to the National Crime Records Bureau more than 2500 women have been killed in last fifteen years on the allegation of practicing witchcraft. 768 women have been murdered since 2008, while several others have been thrown out of their own homes and villages on the false accusations of practicing such black magic. 70 year old, Nunu Devi, the headwoman of a village in rural Bihar was blamed to be the reason of the sickness that disabled two of her neighbors. When people begun asking her to cure the two and she expressed her inability to do so, they attacked her with bamboo and iron sticks. She was proclaimed to be a witch and her nose was chopped off as a punishment. In Jharkhand, 38 year old, Rubiya Bibi was blamed for her husband’s sickness and the death of a cow by her brother-in-law and other male neighbors. After being branded as a witch, she was beaten up, forced to eat her own excreta and thrown out of the village. Rubiya now begs to make a living. In a similar incident at Jaipur, a 30 year old woman was stripped, tied to an electricity pole and bruised with hot tongs for being the so called ‘witch’.
In West Midnapore, three women from the same family, Sambari Singh, Fulmoni and Sambari’s namesake were beaten to death on being found guilty of practicing the ‘witchcraft’. All of them were stripped naked before being killed brutally. When Regina Daimari’s husband died leaving behind some property, the relatives begun harassing her. When every other trick failed, they branded her as a witch and got her thrown out of the house. This witch hunt is dominant in states like Jharkhand, West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, even today. It has been considered as a mere superstitious act for a long time; however, the studies and observations by social activists reveal a completely different story. Woman who are rebellious in nature or a threat to the patriarchal system or widows who possess some property are the ones who are tortured on the name of being a witch. It is a conspiracy to throw them out of the community; to acquire their property or suppress their voice. A 2010 report by the Cornell Law School, US following a study it conducted on witch hunt in Jharkhand, notes, ‘several causes motivate witch hunting. Sometimes, the victim is thought to have caused illness, death or a bad harvest. In other cases, she is being punished for refusing sexual advances or challenging the authority of the community elders.’ It’s high time to deal with such evil practices and abolish them from the society. It is just a way to punish and torture the fairer sex on the name of religion and superstition. The truth is witches did not and do not exist. ———— About the Author: This article has been contributed by Srishti Raj, our intern. Srishti is a student of Computer Science & Engineering at KIIT University at Bhubaneswar. She is an avid reader and a keen observer who yearns to see a change in the society.