Witch-hunt in India

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At time when people are changing their Facebook profile to support the Digital India programme with the vision to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy, I write in intense grief that witch-hunt still exists in Indian society.

Witch-hunt refers to the search for witches or persons believed to be using sorcery or black magic in order to persecute and typically kill them. While witch-hunts may seem to be dusty relics of a bygone age; the persecution, torture and execution of suspected witches continue in many places of India to the present day.

For the sake of statistical satisfaction, more than 2500 witch-hunt murders have taken place across India since 2000 according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data.

Branding a woman as a witch is a common ploy to grab land, family rivalry, settle scores or even to punish her for turning down sexual advances. Poor, childless, unmarried or widowed women are particularly vulnerable to witch-hunt. However, sometimes when a woman becomes independent in tribal community, witchcraft is invoked as a way of keeping her in subservient roles to ensure patriarchy. That is why, perhaps, similar accusations against Debjani Bora - national javelin gold medalist - were made during October 2014. She was tortured so severely that she became unconscious and had to undergo medical treatment.

A family member's illness, crop failure or a dry well are all common reasons for accusing a woman of witchcraft. These allegations might be made by relative, neighbour, village leader, local shaman or Ojha.

Ojha, who supposedly uses white magic, performs different nonsense and illogical act to identify the witch-like carving the names of suspected local women on the branches of a Sal tree. The branch that droops is believed to bear the name of the witch.

India has never been a country of scientific temperament. Even elite people like IAS, Doctor etc. have a tendency to rationalise bad events with black power. Similar inferences can be drawn when an engineer chief-minister of the state asks, without an iota of guilt, that what is wrong in meeting with a Tantrik. Such acts of elite people, who are idolised, do not only pave a path for spreading superstitions but also give an excuse to offenders to justify their acts.

If India wants to be a developed nation, it cannot build its foundation on illogical religious temperament. Inclusion of scientific temperament as national vision along with taking crimes like witch-hunt seriously will do better than sailing on religious fundamentalisms. As far as fantasy of witch-craft is concerned, it should be left to reel life like Harry Potter movies because if there were black or white magic, these Ojhas or Tantriks would have become anything but Ojhas using their power!

Cawing of a crow only means noise, not an indication for visiting of a guest.


Siddharth Suman
Doctoral Candidate
Sustainable; and Renewable Energy
IIT Patna
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

He is a freelancer; writing especially on societal issues, science, and education in both Hindi & English for various online media houses. In addition, he loves to write poetry and short story for the expression of personal emotions and thoughts.

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