| Members of the NGO stage the demonstration at Dispur Last gate on Monday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, Aug. 25: Brothers, a social organisation, today staged a dharna at Last Gate here demanding the state government to formulate an anti-witch hunting law to tackle the social menace.
The organisation also submitted a memorandum stating its demands to Assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi. It said although instances of witch-hunting keep occurring and many innocent people in different parts of the state have lost their lives to this evil practice, the state government was yet to formulate a law to punish the guilty and prohibit this practice.
According to the group, 81 people have fallen prey to witch-hunting in the state from October 2008 to October 2013. Instances of witch-hunting had been reported from Goalpara, Kokrajhar, Sonitpur, Chirang, Baksa, Udalguri, Nagaon, Jorhat, North Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, Dhemaji, Sivasagar, Bongaigaon, Kamrup and Kamrup (metro) districts.
“The number of cases of witch-hunting is on the rise because of negligence of the state social welfare, home, health and education departments. If these departments do not take prompt action, this evil practice is going to take a turn for the worse. The social stigma attached to the practice of declaring someone a witch prevents the victim from leading a normal life,” said Dibyajyoti Saikia, activist and secretary general of Brothers.
“Today, we submitted the memorandum stating our demands to the Speaker of the state Legislative Assembly and he assured us that he will take up the matter of formulating an anti-witch hunting law when the matter is raised in the Assembly. He also handed the memorandum to state home minister Rakibul Hussain for consideration,” said Saikia.
The organisation demanded that anyone found practising incantation or shamanistic culture (a form of magical practice) should be fined Rs 1,000 and jailed for a year if proved, while anyone spreading rumours about someone being a witch should be fined Rs 15,000 and jailed for six years. Anyone guilty of witch-hunting should be awarded life imprisonment with a fine of minimum Rs 30,000 and maximum Rs 50,000.
Majority of witch-hunting cases stemmed from personal rivalry. “There are many victims who had fled their homes to save themselves and are yet to get any government compensation or justice. It is necessary that the government rehabilitates the families of victims and pay them a compensation ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 10 lakh so that they can start their lives afresh,” said Saikia.
The organisation also highlighted the need to create awareness about witch-hunting through sensitisation programmes and inclusion of a chapter on the issue in school text at the primary level.
It also demanded that a police officer failing to curb such crimes within his or her jurisdiction should be suspended.