The Phenomenon of Witch Hunting

What is meant by witch? 

The present meaning of witchhas a very remote relationship with the meaning of the word witchof the past. According to Dr. Aparna Mahanta, a renowned writer and intellectual from Assam, originally the word witchwas used to mean wicca, a scientist woman, who would go to the jungle at night, to gather medicinal plants and with such herbs she would offer treatment to patients and cure them.

But new medical knowledge became completely monopolized by males, so it became necessary for them to stand up against these wicca. At the same time this modern medical treatment was costlier for the poor, and they had to go to the local Bez. When such a Bezor Kabirajwas unable to cure the patient, then she/he was branded as a witch, about whom it was said that the patient had to succumb to death due to her. Bezis the local doctor who gives treatment to the patient.

Usual causes
It is a general notion that the witchis a woman. There are such cases in Kokrajhar, Goalpara districts. In Dhudhnoi of Goalpara district, in a village named Hatimura, a person Bedeswar Rabha was severely tortured. He was a very proud man and disliked by the villagers. His son started a shop and the son of the Mukhia of the village also opened a shop, they were rivals. Many villagers had fallen ill, the bez told people that there was a 13 headed demon who was obstructing the god of the village temple from entering the temple and that he was Bedeswar Rabha. So he was severely beaten in a meeting. Later Mission Birubala saved him, filed a case, and then brought them to a negotiation. Some people say that the practice of polygamy is also behind the phenomenon of witchhunting, because when a man marries two or three women one of them becomes the target of the others, as she is loved more by the husband. Padumi Rabha was the second wife of her husband. The third wife was a young girl, and after this marriage the husband stopped giving maintenance to Padumi. She had a child. Both Padumi and husband worshipped Siva. He always called her witchwhenever she protested against his attitude of neglect towards them. Taking the chance of an incident of a dead snake, carried by Padumis husband, it was kept in front of Padumis house. The husband, and even Padumis maternal family tortured her, she was forcefully sent out of the village while a woman Birubala Rabha saved her and now she is a member of the Mission.
Again, some say that with the spread of Christianity, those who influenced the people with so called
supernatural powersbecame wary of Christianity. At this juncture the Christian prophets were afraid of the influence of witches on common people. So, in order to restrict this influence, they began to propagate negative things regarding the activities of the so called witches.
In India, among the tribal people, where there is no existence of goddesses like Kalior Durga, people worship demons, the Devil or some negative supernatural powers. Their dependence on nature, fear of natural calamities, fear of disease, all lead them to worship such evil powers.
Witch hunting, in Assam, is branding a woman as
witch(daini) mostly by the local Bezor Kabiraj, the local doctor. Usually, when the villagers approach a bezwith a chronic ailment, or for some suggestion or way to find out the cause of sudden death of any person or animal, the ojhaor bezidentifies some woman as a witchor daini. Then the villagers drag her out, torture her and she is often beaten to death; sometimes wrapped in fishing net and beaten to death and sometimes buried alive. In some states, the woman branded as witchor dainiis paraded naked and even raped by mobs of village people, who are convinced of her evil powers. In a tea garden in Behali of Sonitpur district, Assam the family of Binanda Gaur was
branded as
witch familyand was attacked by a group of villagers.
The mother and the daughter were dragged out to a ditch and were raped and killed. Tiku Orang, one of the arrested confessed.

(Hindustan Times. 23-6-2011). In Odisha, a group of villagers assaulted and forced three people including two women to walk naked through the village in November-2013 (Science and ReligionJuly Aug, 2014 by Ryan Shaffer). But most often those who lead such activities have vested interests. If by sheer luck, the victim manages to escape, she is ostracized from the village with a heavy fine being imposed, and is dispossessed of her property.
It is seen that though this practice was prevalent mostly in Bodo areas, yet with the passage of time, it has spread to other districts, and now such crimes are being reported from Kamrup, Nalbari, Sivasagar, Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Nawgaon, Bongaigaon, Dhemaji, Karbi Anglong districts. Such incidents occur in areas predominantly inhabited by the adivasis, the tribal people. According to SP Kokrajhar in Kokrajhar district alone 63 were murdered in the name of 
witchs’ during the period 2001 to 2011.

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