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Call for law on witch-hunt

File picture of people accused of practising witchcraft being purified at a village in Majuli

Guwahati, Dec. 17: The state government today told the Assam Assembly that it would think about passing a strict, separate law to prevent witch-hunting.

Responding to a resolution on the issue — moved by BJP legislator Ranjit Kumar Das — forest minister Rakibul Hussain said existing laws could firmly punish those involved in witch-hunting but the state government would seriously consider introducing separate laws.

“Since the issue is very serious, the home department will issue fresh instructions to the Assam Police to crack down on those involved in witch-hunting. The police must immediately arrest those who spread such superstitious beliefs,” Hussain told the House on behalf of the home department.

Ranjit Kumar Das told the Assembly that introducing a stringent, separate law would create a sense of fear among communities where such social evils were prevalent. He said witch-hunting must be made a non-bailable offence.

Although there are existing laws to deal with witch-hunting, the police and administration is often reluctant to deal strictly with such crimes, Das said. The Assam police’s Prahari project to create awareness against the menace had failed to yield positive results, he added.

Pramila Rani Brahma, a Bodoland People’s Front legislator, supported the resolution. “The way people (accused of witchcraft) are killed, it reminds one of the dark ages. This menace must come to an end at the earliest to save many innocent lives,” Brahma said.

Hussain, however, said laws alone could not eradicate witch-hunting and civil society must raise awareness about such social evils.

“I appeal to all 126 MLAs of this House to engage in creating awareness against witch-hunting in their respective constituencies. We have to go to the roots of such evil and accordingly find a solution,” Hussain said.

Under an initiative of the Assam State Legal Services Authority (ASLSA), various state government agencies recently came together to prepare a comprehensive road map to eliminate the menace.