Reasons behind witch killing

i) Bez’ or ‘Kaviraj’

In a society which has tribal roots, where prevails the worship of demons, witches, ghosts etc. people have tremendous faith in the Bezor Kaviraj. Assam has been well-known since long for the practice of black magic. In Marigaon district, Mayong was, as mentioned above, once known as the Indian Capital of Black Magic.

So the influence of such beliefs is still there among those who are illiterate. Just a day after eminent rationalist Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Pune last year; two people were killed in a remote village in Assam
s Kokrajhar district, allegedly by villagers, who suspected them of practising witchcraft.

ii) Economic Disparity

One of the major reasons behind witch hunting is economic disparity and neglect of health care as well as absence of a health care infrastructure. This lies behind the power as well as respect enjoyed by the Bezor Ojhain rural Assam, especially in the tribal dominated areas. A large number of Bezor Ojhasearn their livelihood by providing medication and health care to these illiterate villagers who are deprived of modern healthcare facilities and unaware of modern medicine. Specially, in the rainy season, the villagers suffer from malaria, cholera etc. and several epidemics result in mass deaths. Anyone who is seriously ill is taken to these Bezor Ojhas. But in most of the cases the Bezor Ojhafails to cure the patient. The villagers become angry and accuse the Bezto be responsible for the death, and it turns to severe punishment by branding them as witches. To save themselves from such accusations, the Bezmight brand some woman in the village as a witch. It is under the instruction of the Bezthat the destitute woman is beaten to death, burnt alive or buried.

iii) Land Mafia

Sometimes there are cases of killing of women, which are found to be acts of the Land Mafia. It has been found that all these cases are not incidents of witch hunting, rather they are acts committed with long-term planning by land mafia to grab land and property. Some people with vested interests use these social practices and superstitions to uproot families having land, on which they have set their eyes , so
that the land can be acquired at a very low price, because, generally, people do not want to buy land which is known to have been owned by some
witch. Garbo Murmoo, 55 and his wife Muni Hajda, 45, an adivasi couple of Gosaigaon sub-division of Kokrajhar district of Lower Assam were attacked on 18th October night of 2009. Crime and Superstition A spate of witch hunting assaults,article by Ratna Bharali Talukdar 27/06/2010.
They were branded as a
witch coupleand, while asleep, they were attacked brutally. Though they were thought to have been killed, fortunately they were rescued by BCF (Birsa Commando Force) local unit the next morning, and were taken to Kokrajhar Civil Hospital.
They survived, but Muni
s face was disfigured and Garbo could not walk properly. The cause behind this attack was that since the ethnic clash of the 1990s, they along with many others had been living in a relief camp. In 2006 most of the camp dwellers decided to return to their villages, where the atmosphere had become normal again. But Garbo decided to stay along with a few other inmates as it was easier for him to find a daily wage job near the camp. But the land mafia, who had an eye on the camp site, threatened them to leave the camp site. They challenged the land mafia and decided not to leave theplace, so they were branded as witches, perhaps they thought it would also frighten the others in the camp site. In another case Brishnu Rabha and Purshee Rabha, who had crossed their sixties, of Rajapara village in Palashbari of Kamrup district were burnt alive by their fellow villagers in front of one of the couples sons, the other sons had fled away in fear. The couple had been involved in a land dispute with a neighbour Banti Rabha, who had committed suicide due to some unknown reason. Bantis widow claimed that since her husbands death she had begun to have nightmares. She accused the couple for this, and in front of a village court, the villagers branded them as witches and declared the punishment that they were to be burnt alive. Crime and Superstition A spate of witch hunting assaults,article by Ratna Bharali Talukdar 27/06/2010.

iv)Internal Conflicts

Due to social transformation, changes have occurred among various tribes and such changes have given rise to some conflicts amongst themselves. There are some persons within every community who are regarded to be wise, who have tremendous influence over the common people. In order to keep their influence intact, they want people to be loyal to them, and for this, sometimes they take the help of magical powers. Dr. Indivar Deuri, a renowned thinker and intellectual, said in one of his books on this topic. A Sauntal (Santhal) young girl, pointed out by the Sauntal witch, if refuses to join the witch group, she is threatened to be harmed with Mantra.
Such a secret tradition still prevails. So some groups of vested interests try to fulfil their economic and political interests taking help of such beliefs-- people
s faith on some supernatural power, and whosoever opposes such a conspiracy, is branded a witch. Brinda Karat, AIDWA vice president, gives the example of Subhadra Basumatary 40, a Bodo woman in Tilpara village of Goalpara district of Assam, mother of three sons and three daughters, who had the courage to denounce rituals conducted by the Kavirajor Ojhasor witch doctors. She was attacked; she had thrice been branded as witchas there had been three instances of a disease affecting people in the village. On the fourth occasion, her family members ganged up against her as she had demanded a share of her late fathers property.
The people took the help of a local
Ojha, she was declared a witch, was dragged out of her house at night, and beaten until dawn.

v) Psychiatric disorders

According to modern medical science, sometimes a person may suffer from such problems as hallucination. Also, people at times may suffer from psychiatric disorders, which can be cured by proper medical treatment. But due to lack of scientific knowledge, education and proper medical facilities, people take recourse to such superstitions as wearing Madulior Tabij, going to bezetc for exorcism. In such remote areas people do not have proper facilities for education or development, having no proper means of communication, no electricity, no hospitals, and no schools. The doctors, even those who are deputed, never stay there. Medical treatment is too expensive for them as they have to travel a long way for treatment. Therefore, it must be admitted that the issue of development is quite an important factor behind acts of witchhunting.

vi) Personal jealousy

There is often personal jealousy and rivalry behind such incidents. If a family becomes relatively wealthy and develops economically, with its sons and daughters being well established in various fields, a group of people become jealous of them and they instigate the illiterate, fear stricken poor villagers against them, taking chances by using some instances.

vii) Gender inequality and gender violence prevalent in our society is also a major cause behind witch hunting. As has been mentioned earlier the incident of branding of Subhadra Basamatary, a follower of the Communist ideology, began to protest against the unscientific ideas prevalent in society and dared to challenge them; this could not be tolerated by the male-dominated society and she was branded as a 
witchand tortured brutally.

viii) Unwanted attention from men

In another instance, it was found that a young widow was targeted by a few young boys of a remote village and they wanted to have a secret, illicit relationship with her, against which she protested and threatened to tell the villagers about this. The boys spread the rumour that she was a witch. She was attacked, but she joined the Birubala Mission, an NGO fighting against the practice of witch hunting.
Studies reveal that a practice like witch hunting has its roots among marginalized communities, deprived of development. Poor, illiterate people living in remote areas live a life greatly influenced by superstitions. Can we blame them, when we, even in the metro cities notice all around us well-to-do people, having high qualifications, running from temple to temple, wearing precious stones according to birth signs and observing fasts for a bright future, for safety, for a long life, for good results in examinations, for a good job etc. Poor people always blame their stars or fate for their poverty and depend on the blessings of numerous gods and goddesses for betterment in their lives. And it has already been mentioned that in such a society there are always some self-declared
wisemen, witch doctors, Bez, Kaviraj, Ojhaswho govern the lives of common people.

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