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Hundreds join rally against witch-hunting

Kokrajhar, March 26: Hundreds of people joined the rally at Monglajhora Borjhora here in protest against the killing of three members of a family, including two women, in a suspected case of witch-hunting at Borjhora village, under Bogribari police station in Kokrajhar district.

The rally was organised by the All Bodo Women’s Welfare Federation. Students, locals and members of various organisations, including the All Bodo Students’ Union and Bodoland Peoples’ Front and NGOs participated in the rally. They held banners, placards and shouted slogans against the practice of witch-hunting and demanded punishment for the culprits involved in such heinous crimes.

Rajendra Brahma, 70, his wife Bangali, 61, and daughter Malati, 40, an Anganwadi worker and president of the Monglajhora unit of the Federation, were allegedly killed on March 19 by villagers for practising witchcraft. Their bodies were buried on the banks of the Silai river and recovered after three days.

A public meeting was also organised at Monglajhora after the rally, which was chaired by Mithinga Basumatary, president of the Federation. Expressing concern over the killing, Basumatary said it was unfortunate that people still indulge in such evil beliefs in today’s era. She demanded early arrests and punishment for the culprits involved in the crime. She also demanded a high-level inquiry into the killings.

Former Assam agriculture minister and Kokrajhar East MLA Pramila Rani Brahma who participated and flagged off the rally urged the government to take bold steps against superstitious beliefs and create mass awareness against witch-hunting. She demanded a law to deal with such crimes.

Sources in the village said the elderly couple was accused of practising black magic after the death of a villager a few days back. The villagers had branded the couple “witches” about 10 years ago.

This is the first incident of witch-hunting in Kokrajhar district this year. According to government data, about 105 cases of witch-hunting were reported across the state between 2006 and 2012. The highest number of cases, 29, was recorded in 2011. Of this, Kokrajhar alone accounted for 20 cases. Though organisations are making an effort to eradicate the social ill, results have not been forthcoming because of an alleged lack of initiative and strong action from the administration and the police. Dispur had announced that it was contemplating a law to end the practice of witchcraft. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi had said apart from enacting a law, the government would launch an awareness campaign.