Most forms of violence against women show a tendency to increase as both awareness of and measures against it grow. This seems to indicate that the roots of VAW in Indian society have to be sought for beyond the obvious and the visible. For example, why is witch-hunting on the rise? It would be false to say that education in India is not spreading, even if its spread is jerky, faulty and far from adequate. Yet a survey in late 2012 showed that, in Karnataka and Chhattisgarh for example, murders for allegedly practising witchcraft increased in one year from 0 to 77 and from eight to 17 cases respectively.
Although the same study marked out Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand as the leading states in the killing of ‘witches’, West Bengal has never been far behind. Three women were killed in the district of West Midnapore in October last year when a village ‘court’ pronounced them witches. This was after the killing of two women for the same reason in Malda district in May. The Vigyan Manch, which arranged a convention in Midnapore to discuss the issue with the predominantly tribal population there, claimed that it had been fighting this evil for the last 26 years. But it almost happened again in West Midnapore. A man’s body could not be cremated for two days because the village was sitting in judgment on his mother, accused of being ‘possessed’. The police could do little. Nothing moved till the administrative officers arrived, although then villagers competed with each other in passing the buck. Fear, not enlightenment, broke the deadlock. In spite of the many laws under which witch-hunting can be penalized in the Indian penal code, Rajasthan, worried about the growing rate of ‘witch’ killings, started processing the Rajasthan women (prevention and protection from atrocities) bill in 2011, while Jharkhand has had a Jharkhand Dayan Pratha (Witchcraft) Act since 2001. Nothing has yet provided a solution. Evidently, more penetrating analysis is needed to end this gruesomeness.