Kokrajhar, April 28: A college student and a resident of East Maligaon in Kokrajhar has gone missing since April 22.
The family members of Ashinta Basumatary, also known as Olla, have alleged that they were being hounded by villagers for "practising black magic". They suspect foul play and filed an FIR at Kokrajhar police station today.
Ashinta's mother, Gajrai, 47, was accused of being a witch five years back after the death of her husband. She was forced to leave her house in December last year and since been living at her parents' house at Sulmari in Gossaigaon subdivision.
East Maligaon is about 35km from BTC headquarters town of Kokrajhar.
In October 2013, the villagers of Sulmari and East Maligaon even held a meeting in this regard and a resolution was adopted that the family should not be harassed and allowed to live in the village with dignity. "But the harassment continued, forcing me to leave my children (two sons and a daughter) in December," Gajrai said.
The ordeal resurfaced after Gajrai came to visit her children for a family function two weeks back. Some villagers accused her of practising black magic, resulting in the death of a cow in the village.
Ashinta's elder brother Mahanta said they received a threat a few days back by some villagers, who even took away their goat as punishment. Mahanta said his brother asked him and his wife to leave the place as a precaution.
Mahanta said he left for his in-law's place at nearby Ultapani village on April 20 but could not contact his brother since April 22. "I heard some people in the village saying he was taken away and killed," he said.
The family members have named five suspects - Thombra Narzary, Gobinda Basumatary, Elen Narzary, Borai Basumatary and Sontola Basumatary - in the FIR.
They demanded a thorough investigation into the matter and arrest of the culprits involved.
"I want to know where my son is and where he is being kept," Gajrai said.
Attacks on those suspected of practising witchcraft and sorcery are common in Assam, especially in the state's Bodo and Adivasi areas. According to police, about 140 people have been killed in witch-hunting since 2002.
The Assam government last year submitted an anti-witchhunt draft legislation to check the menace.
The bill, which proposes punishment for three years to life imprisonment, is said to be the strictest in the country so far. The proposed legislation also aims to check illegal practice by quacks.