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Superstitions and Irrationality Continue to Cause Deaths of Women Affixed as ‘Witch’ in Rural India

In July 2015, Laila Orang, a 24-year kid from a town in Assam quote farewell to his mom and left house at the usual time to work in the paddy field. When he returned at twelve noon, he discovered the severed head of his mom lying centimetres far from her body, by the riverside.

A local mob had dragged Laila’s mother from her house, beat and stripped her, then beheaded her, as they believed she was a ‘witch’.

In August 2015, Usha Oaron’s mother-in-law was dragged by her hair, stripped naked and paraded at the town assembly point with 3 other middle-aged females who were beaten to death with iron rods. The occurrence happened in a town called Kanjia in Jharkhand where the females killed were thought to have actually triggered the death of a 17-year old young boy from cancer by carrying out black magic on him. The mob, primarily consisting of 20-year-olds, called the ladies ‘witches’.

A group of individuals in December in 2015 ganged up against a senior female in Nalanda district of Bihar, blackened her face, sliced off her hair and beat her up with sticks. The female was implicated of being a ‘witch’.

These are only three isolated incidents out of the 2,257 witch-killings in India since 2000.

She is a devil in human form who survives on human blood and flesh. She has mastered jaadu-tona (black magic) and can burn you by just looking into your eyes.” – A woman from Rajasthan describes a witch.

It is 2017, however the prevalent practice of witch searching still dominates in the superstitious parts of rural India.

The practice includes the ‘Ojha’ or ‘Bej’ (witch-doctor) recognizing ‘witches’. The ones who are fortunate face stigmatisation and seclusion from the town neighborhood. Others undergo barbaric types of abuse– they are raped, physically abused, beaten, burned, paraded naked, force-fed human faeces and urine, and killed.

Witch searching dominates in India due to patriarchal mindsets and opposition to the rights of a female. The victims are typically middle-aged or senior widows or divorcees. Hence the intention of the murder is to rip her off her right to household land, home and cash.

The National Crime Report Bureau (NCRB) report of 2015 placed Jharkhand first in witch-hunt with 32 murders, while Odisha was a close second with 26 murders. In total, there have been 133 cases in the country where the victims were murdered after being branded as ‘witches’.

In spite of the Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2013 the State has continued to rank 2nd for the previous couple of years. Many cases are reported from the tribal areas. In 2015, 6 member of the family, consisting of 4 kids in Keonjhar district of Odisha were hacked to death by a regional town mob after the household was implicated of practicing black magic. State Chief Minister, Navin Patnaik, stated that the government is performing awareness drives to fight the increasing variety of cases.

According to the NCRB report, half of the total witch-killings in India is attributed to Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. Between 2000 and 2012, there were 363 such murders in Jharkhand alone. Is there any law which penalises witch-hunt and associated murders?

India does not have any nationwide legislation to especially punish witch-hunt killings. Just the states of Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, have particular State laws.

Despite the fact that laws exist in States that witness an optimum variety of witch-hunt criminal activities, its inadequate execution is the factor for the perpetuation of the practice. Underreporting of a great deal of cases, inefficient legal examination, unattainable laws, useless rehab procedure and absence of extreme penalties contribute to the existing issue.