Jorhat, Aug. 25: Dispur is planning to undertake a special drive to wean people away from superstitious beliefs, which have led to killing and harassment of innocents in many places of Assam and have also created law and order problems at times.
Assam parliamentary secretary for home affairs Atuwa Munda told The Telegraph that the proposed initiative had been discussed with chief minister Tarun Gogoi and senior officials recently and was under consideration.
“We want to launch a massive campaign against superstitious beliefs among some communities that lack awareness and are educationally and socially backward. They believe some persons are possessed by daini (witch) and that some practise witchcraft (black magic) to cause harm to others and based on these suspicions, innocent people get killed,” Munda said.
In some cases, certain families accused of being possessed or of practising sorcery are also asked by fellow villagers to leave the village.
In the past three months, two families of a village on the Bahphala outskirts here near the Brahmaputra have been facing tough times as local people have accused them of practising witchcraft and have asked them to leave. Police have arrested four persons in the case and are keeping a close watch on the village to protect the families.
On August 21 night, three elderly persons, including a couple, were murdered at Milanpur village in Kokrajhar district. The couple were from Milanpur while the third was from neighbouring Auguri village. Police suspected the killings to be linked to the allegation of witchcraft.
Munda said the proposed drive would be conducted in 12 Assam districts where such incidents had been reported. The groundwork has started, he said.
Munda said the initiative launched a couple of days ago in Jorhat district to dispel rumours about pisal bhoot (slippery ghost) assaulting people at night in Mariani and its adjoining areas would be taken as a model.
In Jorhat, several teams, comprising senior police, civil and labour department officials, will visit tea gardens and villages at night to prevent any kind of hysteria arising out of rumours of “pisal bhoot sightings”. Each team will have a police officer of gazetted rank or above and a circle officer or above from the civil administration.
The move comes in the wake of the August 18 incident near Mariani where a tea garden worker riding a bicycle claimed he was attacked by a pisal bhoot. It led to other workers assaulting two young passersby. The police resorted to firing after being attacked while trying to rescue the youths, resulting in school student Sujit Nayak’s death.
Munda said the Jorhat administration had identified areas in Mariani and nearby, mostly tea gardens and villages, where sightings of pisal bhoot were reported. He said Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, the largest body of tea workers in the state, would be involved in the awareness programme in tea gardens.
The Sangha has been asked to talk to tea labourers against superstition when plucked green leaves are weighed in the afternoon. Munda said the management of the gardens and gaon panchayats, too, would be involved in creating awareness. “Other social and labour organisations could also be involved in the proposed plan,” he said.