Jorhat, Sept. 2: The Asam Satra Mahasabha, the apex body of 862 xatras in and outside the state, has decided to organise janajagaran sabhas (mass awareness campaigns) across the state against killings in the name of witch-hunting.
The president of the Mahasabha, Leela Mahanta, told this correspondent from Guwahati today that the organisation was concerned over the recent rise in incidents of killing of persons on suspicion of practising witchcraft.
This year till date, over 12 people, including women and children, have been killed by their fellow villagers on the suspicion of practising black magic especially in areas inhabited by various tribal communities and tea tribes.
Last week, three persons, all from the same family and belonging to Mising community, were allegedly murdered at a chapori (sandbar) on Majuli-Lakhimpur border by a group from the same village. Police arrested four persons on Friday from Madhupur Lohit chapori for their role in the murder.
Majuli has witnessed several incidents of people being killed on the suspicion of practising witchcraft. Last year, a person was killed at Gejing chapori. The police said the body was probably thrown into the Brahmaputra. Two years back, another person was killed in the Jengrai area under similar circumstances.
Most of these incidents had taken place in the interior and backward areas where people are unlettered.
Mahanta said the matter was discussed at today’s steering committee meeting of the Mahasabha held in Guwahati following a verbal request from Upper Assam commissioner S.I. Hussain.
He will write a formal letter to the organisation seeking Mahasabha’s cooperation to check the menace in Upper Assam.
“We have decided to carry out an awareness drive across Assam by organising janajagaran sabhas especially in the tribal areas which have been affected by the problem,” Mahanta said.
He said with the organisation having its presence in every nook and corner of the state, the xatradhikars (head priests) of the xatras in the affected areas would be asked to organise janajagaran sabhas to stop witch-hunting.
“Mahapurush Srimanta Sankardev had tried to initiate social reforms and it is our (xatras) bounden duty to guide society towards the right path and do away with such evil practice of killing people just on the basis of suspicion,” the Mahasabha president said.
He said it is very unfortunate that such killings were taking place in Majuli which is the nerve centre of Vaishnavite culture with about 30 xatras.
Mahanta said in the conference of Mahasabha scheduled to be held in Majuli in November this year, the issue (killing on suspicion of practising witchcraft) would be discussed at length to stop the violence.
Jadab Chandra Bora, cultural secretary of Asam Samanita Yuba Tirtha, the youth wing of the Mahasabha, said they would extend full support to the proposed initiative.
Hussain said the religious body taking the lead in this regard is expected to help a lot in the campaign against violence based on mere suspicion.