Cyclists rally to end witch-hunt in Majuli

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 11.11.13

Jorhat, Nov. 10: Brothers, a social organisation of Assam, involved in campaigns against killing of innocent persons on the suspicion of practising witchcraft (locally known as daine) in tribal-dominated areas, today took out a bicycle rally covering nearly 40km and also held roadside meetings in Majuli to spread awareness against witch-hunting.

There has been several witch-hunt related deaths on the island in the past few years. In October, 35 people, including three women and an eight-year-old boy, were subjected to “purification ceremony” for over a fortnight at Shikari Gaon — a Mising-majority village — at a remote sapori (sandbar) on the Brahmaputra. A teenage boy who claimed to have been “possessed by a goddess” had identified a group of people allegedly practising witchcraft and bringing bad omen to the village. He had reportedly exorcised the group branded witches.

The secretary-general of the organisation, Dibyajyoti Saikia, who participated in the rally, told this correspondent over phone that the procession was part of their campaign against witch-hunting across the state.

Saikia said about 100 members of Brothers — all youths of the area including girls, mostly from the Mising community— took part in the rally carrying posters, banners and placards and shouted slogans against witch-hunting.

Banners exhorted people not to believe in existence of daine as it is only a superstition. “Nobody has the right to kill people under any pretext,” and “Special law needed to deal with the crime of witch-hunting” were written on the banners and posters carried by the cyclists who also shouted slogans.

“The route we had chosen had covered about 20 villages having dominant Mising population as incidents of killing innocents in the name of practising witchcraft have been taking place in villages inhabited by Mising people on the island,” Saikia said.

He said the rally started around 8am from Bordua Balijan village in lower Majuli and it ended at the market of Garmur (headquarters of Majuli subdivision) around 12.30pm, where a roadside meeting was organised in which over 500 people were present.

Saikia said the rally began from Bordua Balijan village because in that village in August 2012, three members of a family (a man, his wife and their child) were killed by a mob that accused them of practising witchcraft.

Saikia said his organisation had been demanding a special act to curb witch-hunting in the state and has come up with eight clauses for inclusion in the proposed draft bill, which the government has been saying that it would be introduced soon. The organisation would submit the document to Assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi, 15 days before the winter session in December.

Lakhimpur, Goalpara, Sonitpur, Nalbari, Kokrajhar and districts in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) are among the worst-affected districts where incidents of witch-hunting have resulted in killings.