Kokrajhar, Sept. 18: A couple, branded as witches, are on the run with their children following threats to their lives.
Jyotsna Ray and her husband Gojin Ray, both in their early 30s, lodged a complaint at Kokrajhar police station today, seeking protection and security. They fled their village Chandrapara Bijulibari, 5km from here, with their daughter and son yesterday.
“The ordeal started three years ago when Chandrapara gaonbura (village headman) Ratneswar Ray called a village meeting, where we were both assaulted and forced to sign a paper admitting that we practice sorcery. Since then, we are living a life of uncertainty,” Gojin said.
The couple had approached the local unit and the Kokrajhar district committee of the All Assam Koch Rajbongshi Students’ Union, which promised to look into the matter.
“After we approached the district AKRSU, we got indirect threats to our lives. So we left the village,” Gojin said.
The incident comes to light when the Assam government is planning to table an anti-superstition bill in the next session of the Assembly in view of the rise in witch-hunt.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi had recently announced that his government was contemplating an anti-superstition law and an awareness campaign. According to the government, about 105 cases of witch-hunting have been reported in the state from 2006 to 2012, with the highest number, 29, being recorded in 2011.
Kokrajhar alone has accounted for 20 of these cases, the most recent being the killing of three elderly people on August 21. Biren Basumatary, 60, and his wife Sukeswari, 55, of Milanpur village and Govinda Rabha, 64, of neighbouring Auguri village were killed in a suspected case of witch-hunting.
The attacks have spurred social activists into demanding a legislation to check crimes based on superstition, as witch-hunts have resulted in several deaths in the Bodo belt and among tea tribes.
Though civil society groups are trying to eradicate the social evil, results are not forthcoming because of an alleged lack of initiative and strong action from the administration and police.
“Cases of witch-hunting are dealt with under Section 323 of the IPC that prescribes just a year’s imprisonment and a fine of just Rs 1,000. Such laxity could tempt criminals to commit heinous crimes for selfish gains under the guise of witch-hunting,” social activist Pratibha Brahma said. She said a stringent law should be able to combat the menace of witch-hunt.
The All Bodo Students’ Union, which has been trying to mobilise sentiments against witch-hunting, also believes a stringent law will solve the problem to a great extent. “It’s a must,” Absu’s Kokrajhar district committee president Lorence Islary said.