Bhubaneswar, September 14 (LocalWire): The abominable practice of witch-hunting has reared its ugly head yet again taking three lives, including that of a 6-year-old baby girl in Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj district.
The government’s enactment of Prevention of Witch Hunting Act in 2014 and awareness initiatives to put to an end to this practice has failed to yield the desired result with the witchcraft-related violence and human toll rising to 27 since January this year.
A 35-year-old tribal woman and her six-year-old daughter were beaten to death in Chandiposh in Mayurbhanj district by a group of locals who suspected them of practicing witchcraft.
In another incident, a woman was stabbed to death on suspicion of being a witchcraft practitioner in Karanjia area.
Both incidents happened in September this month.
The modus operandi of both the crime was the same.
Children were falling sick in these villages. Locals attributed it to the witchcraft practiced by the victim women.
With superstition reigning supreme in these tribals-inhabited hilly and forested areas, three people lost their lives.
According to reports, while the police managed to arrest two assailants in the Karanjia incident on Saturday, the killers in Chandiposh witch-hunting case are still at large.
The state crime records reveal that 27 people have already lost their lives due to such superstition this year, while over 100 cases of violence have been reported to the police.
The Sundargarh district accounted for the highest seven witchcraft-related violence and murder.
Odisha topped the country-wide witchcraft toll with 58 persons being killed in 2016, 36 people in 2017 and 39 people in 2018.
The tribal-inhabited pockets of Sundragarh, Mayurbhanj, Nawarangpur, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Keonjhar and Nuapada are the worst hit by witchcraft violence and these districts accounted for 70% of the cases registered in 2018, according to police.
The coastal district of Ganjam, the home district of chief minister Naveen Patnaik, also figures among the witchcraft violence-prone pockets of the state.
Till the witch-hunt prevention act was enforced, these cases were registered under the IPC.
Despite the enforcement of legal measures, the witch-hunting cases are still being reported at periodic intervals.
While the government has already formulated a composite action plan to prevent witch-hunting involving training and sensitization, experts believe that the action plan has been implemented half-heartedly.
“The panchayat representatives, schools and mass education department, Information and Public Relation Department, Department of Culture, and Health and Family Welfare Department need to be actively involved in the action plan to curb the evil practice,” rationalist Debendra Sutar said.
In an attempt to spread awareness and curb witch-hunting and sorcery practice, Keonjhar police have come out with a novel step by erecting a memorial for witch-hunt victims in February this year.
Still, the practice goes unabated in the district.
Two persons have been killed and a dozen more have fallen victim to sorcery-related violence in the mineral-rich district.
Police said these incidents occur due to poverty, family disputes, blind beliefs and lack of education.
The tantriks or the witch-doctors in these areas motivate and convince the gullible tribals to brand people as witches.
Mostly helpless and defenceless women are targeted and attacked.
Widows and destitute are targeted to grab the property owned by the victim.
Identification, prosecution and systematic elimination of the practice of witchcraft are the need of the hour.
“The conviction rate in cases of such crimes is also very low.
Only 15% of the accused arrested in such cases are convicted in the state, with the police even failing to file charge-sheets in the court,” Sutar stated.