Bhubaneswar, Oct 14 (LocalWire): There is no letup in witch-hunting cases despite the government’s claim of launching a well-orchestrated sensitization campaign to root out the superstition-bound practice.
Witchcraft violence has claimed 12 lives in little over a month.
Since 15 September, innocent people have fallen prey to acts of violence by superstitious people in Sundargarh, Bolangir, Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj districts.
On 10 Oct, the state witnessed merciless killing of three people in Kaptipada and Lahunipada area in Mayurbhanj and Sundargarh districts.
The same day also saw inhuman torture of a man at Jhada Sahi under Jagannath Prasad police station in Ganjam district.
A mob suspected him to be a witch doctor and had pulled out his teeth and forced him to consume human excreta.
The government’s enactment of Prevention of Witch Hunting Act in 2014 and sensitization campaign to put to an end to this practice has failed to yield the desired result with witch-hunting toll rising to 38 from 1 January to 10 October, said rationalist Debendra Sutar.
Last year, 39 witch-hunting related murders were reported while 36 people were killed in 2017 in witchcraft-related violence.
Incidentally Odisha topped the country-wide witchcraft toll in 2016 with 58 people being mercilessly killed on suspicions of practicing black magic.
According to police, the tribal-inhabited pockets of Sundargarh, Mayurbhanj, Nabarangpur, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Keonjhar and Bolangir are the worst-hit by witchcraft-related violence and accounted for 70% of cases registered in 2018.
The coastal district of Ganjam, home district of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, also prominently figures among the witchcraft violence-prone pockets of the state.
The district-wise breakup of witch-hunting deaths registered this year is Sundargarh – 9, Keonjhar – 6, Rayagada – 5, Mayurbhanj – 4, Ganjam – 4, Bolangir – 4, Malkangiri – 3 besides one each from Nupada, Gajapati and Bhadrak districts.
Witch-hunt prevention Act was enforced in the state in 2014. Earlier these were registered under Indian Penal Code provisions.
Despite enforcement of legal measures, the witch-hunting cases are still being reported at periodic intervals and awareness drives launched in the affected areas failed to yield desired results.
Superstition is the root cause of sorcery practice which gives rise to violence.
Apart from people being mercilessly murdered under suspicion of practicing witchcraft, there are innumerable instances of victims being brutally tortured and ostracized from villages. Most of these cases go unreported and are never brought to the notice of law-enforcing agencies, Sutar said.
The government has formulated a composite action plan to prevent witch-hunting involving training and sensitization.
However, the action plan has been implemented half-heartedly.
The Panchayati Raj representatives, schools and mass education department, information and public relation department, department of culture besides health and family welfare department need to be actively involved in the action plan to curb the evil practice, he added.