Witch-Hunting in India
Written By: Fiza Firdaus Ansari
Witch a person dies, people say it happened because they were possessed by a witch. In Mainaguri village during a survey, a girl said, that my relative who lived nearby started causing trouble over a plot of land, and then accused me of being a witch.
Suddenly a lot of people game and surrounded the house. I hear them banging the door thrice with a machete
If someone is labelled a witch, should we not protect that person? If we don’t raise our voice and instead run after them then what is going to be the solution?
Fighting Modern Witch-Hunting in India
For decades the Northeast region has been missing out on India’s growth story. Militancy was actually an everyday reality. Hundreds of people mostly women have been murdered in the northeast farm and its neighbour’s state and accused of being witches. Women and people were beaten up angrily by the mob over suspicion of witchcraft. The real story was a rift between two families over some land. When we were in Mainaguri village, my relatives who lived nearby started causing trouble over a plot of land.
They’d say that our children would learn black magic from us and become witches too. We would overhear them saying things like, “ We need to do something and finish off soon.
Why do people call you and other women a witch?
By calling us a witch, people have ostracized us. They would throw cow dung in the well we used to drink water from. They often says that these people shouldn’t be allowed to stay & the family should be boycotted. The women still don’t have a ration card issued by the government. These women were boycotted couldn’t get anything from the government because of being called a witch, these women’s lived difficult lives full of sorrow.
When you think about witch-hunting, the one incident that comes to mind first is the infamous witch hunt case of Salem, Massachusetts, in the 17th Century of Colonial America. An estimated 40,000 to 60,000 executions were carried out during this time through male lawyers as a means of social control.
Witch-hunting was widely practised in various parts of the world, especially in Europe and North America during the Early Modern period (1480 – 1750). As mentioned in The Guardian, a witch hunt was “the search for those people – usually solitary women – suspected of witchcraft, guided by panic, misinformation, and misunderstanding.” Without pretence to a fair hearing, “communities would execute their suspects” on the thinnest proof.”
Sadly, witch-hunting is still practised in rural parts of India. Several women are subjected to violence, torture and accused to be witches to avenge personal grudges or gain unique benefits every day.
Witch-hunting and laws
Many countries have passed laws to stop witchcraft and witch-hunting. Great Britain condemned witchcraft as a punishable act by law with its Witchcraft Act of 1735. Germany too has a similar law passed in the late 18th century where sorcery remains a punishable act by law. In India, also, there had been several laws to ban witch-hunting.
For example, Rajasthan passed a law against witch-hunting in 2015. The Assam Witch Hunting Bill mandates a jail term for branding a person as a witch, which can be extended as life imprisonment if the person is forced to commit suicide while being labeled a witch.