107 witch-hunt deaths in 8 years: Government
Nearly 107 people have been killed in witch-hunting incidents in Assam since 2011, parliamentary affairs Chandra Mohan Patowary told the Assembly on Saturday during a discussion on various issues related to the home department.
Patowary was replying on behalf of chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who holds the home portfolio.
In February this year, Nirjoy Rabha, 50, of Kokrajhar district in lower Assam, died after a mob thrashed him after branding him a “sorcerer”. The attackers believed he was the reason behind a deadly fever spreading in the village.
A man was arrested in September for allegedly killing two women in another case of witch-hunting in Upper Assam’s Tinsukia district.
“Between 2011 and May 2016, before the BJP-led government came to power in the state, around 84 people were killed in witch-hunting incidents. From June 2016 till October this year, at least 23 more were killed in similar incidents,” Patowary said, while replying to a written question by Congress legislator Nandita Das.
Out of the 23 people killed during the BJP-led government’s tenure, 12 were men and 11 women.
The official report said witch-hunting cases were recorded in at least 21 districts of the state. However, the maximum number of such cases were reported from the Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD), which comprises Kokrajhar, Baksa, Udalguri and Chirang districts.
“Lower Assam’s Kokrajhar district registered the highest number of witch-hunting cases, with 22 people killed in such incidents, from 2011 to October this year. Neighbouring Chirang registered the second highest (19) witch-hunting cases during the same period,” the report said.
While Udalguri district recorded 11 witch-hunting deaths, Baksa registered two during the same period. However, in both these districts, the incidents occurred before the BJP came to power in the state.
Nagaon, Tinsukia, Goalpara, Biswanath and Karbi Anglong districts also registered witch-hunting cases.
Patowary said the state government had notified the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act, 2015, in October last year and has been carrying out awareness drives against superstitious beliefs.