At a time when Assam’s anti-witch hunting activist Birubala Rabha is being recognised, the state is still struggling to get over from a menace that has been going on since the 14th century. It is ironical that every day, in Assam, women are subjected to cruelty, they are beaten up and even burnt alive on suspicion of witchcraft. Such inhuman treatment is meted out to them that they are even raped and paraded naked through the streets and all this remains undocumented, unreported.
In the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) in Assam, this is what happens to women and their families because of the age-old superstition and blind belief in witchcraft.
A few groups in Baksa district’s Bhangrikuchi Nishimpur village who had vested interests had been trying to frame a couple as ‘witches’ for the last few months. They claimed that the couple was the cause of all misfortunes in that village and had been threatening the family for a long time.
The couple, Arunabh and Rajni (names changed), had been spending their past several days in horror because of the way they were being cornered by the villagers who accused them of being ‘witches’. They knew that if they did not do something sooner, their life was at great risk and they could be murdered.
Finally, the All Bodo Students’ Union (ABSU), a students’ organisation representing the Bodo community, came forward to rescue the family. On April 23, ABSU approached the local police station at Nikachi. A team of police along with ABSU arranged a public meet to clarify that the couple was misinterpreted. However, some people kept insisting the matter be resolved by themselves, and not by the police. They kept claiming that the couple were ‘witches’.
Additional Inspector General of Baksa District managed to control the situation and convinced the people that ‘witches’ do not exist and people should welcome the family to their community.
It is a sad incident that people’s perception has not yet changed. This superstition, having roots in the black magic tradition of Assam has taken several lives. According to Mission Birubala, from 2007 to 2014, more than 400 people have been killed due to witch-hunting.