'Witch hunting' on the rise in Assam

Incidents of 'witch hunting’ increased in Assam in 2011 with Kokrajhar district in lower Assam recording the highest number of witch hunting-related deaths in the year, a lawmaker said Thursday.

The issue was raised in the state assembly by Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) legislator Pramila Rani Brahma. Brahma, who represents Kokrajhar constituency, also demanded a strong legislation to stop the social evil.

Earlier, Assam Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain informed the state assembly that a total of 80 people have been killed in Assam in the last five years - from January 2006 to February 2011, due to witch-hunting.

Giving statistics about the witch hunting, the minister also said that a total of 17 people have been tortured in the name of witch hunting in the last five years.

“The witch hunting related incidents have increased in 2011 compared to previous years and a total of 29 women have been killed by declaring them witches in last one year in various places of the state. Of the 29 women, ten hail from Kokrajhar district,” he said adding that 12 people were subjected to atrocities in the name of witch hunting in the last one year, of whom four belong to Kokrajhar.

Witch hunting has claimed four lives so far in 2012.
The evil practice of witch hunting is common among Adivasi and some other tribal communities in various parts of Assam.  Although various steps have been taken both by government agencies and non-government organizations to stop the evil practice, yet very little success has been achieved.

The Assam police have also launched ‘Project Prahari’ for participatory development and people friendly policing to fight social maladies and deprivation. Under the project, Assam police launched awareness drive against ‘witch hunting’ in state’s remote areas where tribal and Adivasi community are in majority.

“A total of 21 people have been killed in the name of witch hunting in 2006. The number of incidents and causality of the evil practice decreased after 2006 and till 2010. The number of incidents and casualties went up again in 2011 with killing of 29 people,” he said.

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