GUWAHATI, April 24 – Expressing anguish and concern over the spate of killing of women under the pretext of witch-hunting in Kokrajhar district, twenty-nine organizations and distinguished citizens have urged the State Government to recognize witch-hunting as an issue of grave public concern and prosecute and punish those involved in the gruesome practice.
They also called for immediate and adequate rehabilitation and compensation to the victimized women and their families.
“Witch-hunting is a gross violation of human rights which affects a woman’s livelihood and property, her personal security and social dignity, and most importantly the right to life. The practice of witch-hunting is prevalent among several communities which include the Bodos, Rabhas and Adivasis. Worryingly, there are clear signs that it is gradually spreading to other communities,” the organizations said in a statement.
Pointing out that the practice of witch-hunting was still rampant and going on without any sign of abatement, the organizations said that the victimized women were often forced to migrate which led to their displacement, loss of livelihood, trafficking and sexual abuse.
The organizations demanded immediate installation of police checks-posts and arrangement of police patrolling in the sensitive areas. “We also want that the Government adopts urgent measures to create mass awareness on the social evil, ensures adequate healthcare facilities in the rural areas, and include ‘witch hunting’ as a separate programme under National Rural Health Mission (NRHM),” they said, adding that a policy on eradication of the practice, too, ought to be adopted as an urgent measure.
“A total of six deaths in the span of four months in 2011 raises concern and warrants urgent intervention of the Government. Illiteracy and superstitions along with weak healthcare services have contributed to asset-less conditions amongst women in Assam. In absence of proper health facilities, villagers in remote areas depend on sorcerers or local healers who promise to cure diseases by magic. As a result women become easy prey and their lives are endangered. Crimes against women are evident in relation to land rights and inheritance and they are attacked indiscriminately after being labelled as dangerous witches,” the statement said.
The organizations also urged the civil administration to ensure safety and security of persons living in the areas where the recent witch-hunting cases took place.
The signatories to the campaign include Women in Governance-Assam (WinG Assam), North East Network, Assam Mahila Samata Society, Nari Mukti Sangram Samiti, Purva Bharati Trust, Kokrajhar Chirang District Sanmilita Samiti, AIDWA, Kokrajhar, sSTEP, Guwahati, All Bodo Women Welfare Federation (ABWWF), Nirjatan Biruddhi Aikya Manch, People’s Rights Forum, Foundation for Social Transformation (FST), Anwesha, Actionaid, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch (NCDHR), Sadau Asam Pragatishil Nari Sanstha, Centre for Peace and Development, Mizoram, NEST, among others.
Original Story: The Assam Tribune