Project Prahari revived to curb witch hunting

KOKRAJHAR: Concerned over witch-hunting in the Bodo heartland, which has already claimed eight lives since January this year, the Kokrajhar police, in collaboration with the Assam State Commission for Women (ASCW), revived Project Prahari, which aims to educate people about the menace and introduce community policing.

The project was revived with a public awareness meeting at U N Brahma Vocational Girls' High School, Habrubari, Serfanguri in Kokrajhar district on Tuesday.

Habrubari is the place where the witch-hunting began on January 1 this year, with the killing of an elderly couple, Sarat Bindu Hazowary (65) and his wife Toposhree Hazowary (60), on suspicion of practising black magic.

The Bodo-dominated Kokrajhar is particularly vulnerable to witch murders, social analysts say. The high incidence of witch-hunting murders here had prompted the state police to launch Project 'Prahari' a decade ago on August 1, 2001 to spread awareness among people.

The chairperson of the ASCW, Mridula Saharia, said at the meeting here on Tuesday said that the killing of people on the basis of mere suspicion was unfortunate and that they would pressurize the government to take an effective measure in this regard.

BTC Executive Member Reo Reoa Narzihary urged people to not indulge in superstitious beliefs that lead to such crimes.

SP Kokrajhar P K Dutta said as many as 61 people, including 39 Bodos and 22 adivasis, have been killed in the name of witch-hunting since 2001.

He added a total of 50 villages have been identified as vulnerable and the new Project Prahari would cover all of them.