Call to prosecute ‘witch hunters’

GUWAHATI, April 22 – Expressing deep anguish and concern over the recent killing of four women in Kokrajhar district in the name of witch hunting, Women in Governance-Assam (WinG Assam) and 50 other organisations and individuals have demanded the State Government to prosecute and punish those involved in the gruesome practice.

Asking the Government to provide for immediate rehabilitation and adequate compensation to the victimized women and their families, the organisations also asked for installation of police check posts and immediate arrangement of police patrolling in the sensitive areas.

“We want the Government to take immediate action on our demands. Earlier also, we have given memorandums to the Social Welfare Minister, Women Commission, Assam and Commissioner, Department of Social Welfare, Assam, but adequate positive action was not taken in this regard,” Bondita Acharya, coordinator, Wing-G Assam told The Assam Tribune.

“We are planning to organise various awareness programmes at the village level all over the State to increase awareness on the issue and educate people about it,” she added.

Many civil society organisations and like-minded individuals have comeup to condemn the gruesome incident and support the campaign against witch-hunting in various parts of the State. A total of 51 signatories have asked the Government to act immediately on their memorandum of demands.

“We have observed that the practice of witch hunting is still rampant and going on without any sign of its eradication. When women are attacked they are forced to migrate which leads to their displacement, loss of livelihood, trafficking and sexual abuse. We from the WinG Assam and like-minded civil society organisations and individuals condemn these killings,” she mentioned.

Asking the State Government to ensure adequate healthcare facilities in the rural areas, the signatories stated that illiteracy and superstitions along with weak healthcare services have contributed to this malpractice in the interior areas of Assam.

“In the absence of proper health facilities, villagers in the remote areas depend on local healers who promise to cure diseases by magic. As a result, women become easy prey and their lives are endangered. Crimes against women are evident in relation to land rights and inheritance and they are attacked indiscriminately after being labelled as dangerous witches,” the memorandum mentioned.

The memorandum has also asked the State Government to include witch hunting as a separate programme under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and adopt a policy for eradicating this practice.