Rampant witch killings in Orissa district causes concern

According to official statistics, many people have fallen victim to the barbaric practise in the impoverished tribal belts.

A belief in witches and evil spirits causing a range of calamities from famine to flood is widespread among tribal communities. Sundergarh district is dominated by the Munda tribe among whose members illiteracy and belief in witchcraft are widespread.
Suspecting that an old woman of Tainsar village, Tuni Ekka, was practising witchcraft, villagers tonsured and paraded her naked after forcing to carry night soil on her head sometime back.

Similar incidents abound in the district. A 62-year-old man was killed in Telitola area in the same Tainsar village on September 20 after being accused of practising witchcraft.
Witch killings have also been reported from Gurundia, Koida, Bisra, Kunarmonda, Kutra and other tribal-dominated blocks in the district.

Even instances of sons killing their old parents on suspicion that their withcraft was responsible for setbacks in life have taken place at Koida, Gurundia and Rajagangpur blocks in the district, the official statistics said.Levinius Kindo, a senior retired IAS officer of the Orissa cadre, who is working among the illiterate tribals in remote areas of the district, said that belief in witchcraft, black magic and other occult practices is so deep-rooted that villagers do not even consult doctors for their illnesses.

"They would rather knock on the door of a so-called witch or a quack than a qualified doctor in a local health centre. But, the irony is that when patients die, the villagers vent their anger on the 'witches' first," Kindo said.

Kindo, also a social activist, said he had lately taken to educating the tribals on the evils of believing in witchcraft.

Officials in the district administration said that steps were being taken to intensify a campaign to create awareness among the tribals by organising block-level meetings.
A UN seminar held recently on witch killings around the globe was told that the problem had assumed international dimensions.

Aides to UN special investigators on women's rights and on summary executions told the seminar that killings and violence against alleged witch women - often elderly people - were becoming common events in countries ranging from South Africa to Nepal to Papua New Guniea to India.

While social activists stressed on education among illiterate tribals as a means to eradicate the blind belief in witchcraft, academicians argued that it was poverty and malnutrition which needed to be tackled first to deal with the witch killings.

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