Assam villagers lynch woman over witchcraft; also kill man who confronted them

The Asian Age.  | manoj anand

India, Crime

According to the law, witch-hunting is viewed as a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence.

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Guwahati: In yet another incident of witch hunting, a woman was lynched by her neighbours and villagers on suspicion of practicing witchcraft in central Assam’s Karbi Anglong district. In addition, a man who confronted the villagers over their belief was also lynched.

Police said that they have already arrested nine persons but six other accused involved in the incident on Wednesday night are still at large.

Asserting that efforts are on to nab six others too, police said that incident took place in Rohimapur area under the Dokmoka police station of Karbi Anglong district. Villagers said that on Wednesday, at a post-death ritual for a deceased in the village, another woman -- a 50-year-old widow Ramawati Halua -- started to behave in an abnormal way to which the villagers alleged that she was practicing witchcraft.

Pointing out that most of the villagers also held the woman responsible for recent deaths and spread of diseases, police said that a mob started beating her and attacked her with sharp weapons. When a 28-year-old educated young man of the village, Bijoy Gaur, accused them of being superstitious, he was attacked too. The angry mob lynched both of them to death, offered rituals to the local deity and tried to cremate the bodies in a nearby hill.

Karbi Anglong’s Superintendent of Police Debojit Deori said that they came to know about the incident on Thursday morning as it happened on the intervening night of Wednesday and Thursday. “We went to the spot and collected mortal remains of the victims. We have also seized the sharp weapons used for the crime and have arrested nine people so far,” he said. It was under the Dokmoka police station jurisdiction that two young men were beaten to death by an angry mob in 2018 after it suspected them of being child-lifters.

It is significant that there have been many attempts to check incident of witch hunting, a social evil that has plagued parts of the state for decades. In 2001, Assam police had introduced Project Prahari, a community project by the police against killing of women after branding them as witches.

According to official records, till December 2019, a total of 107 persons have been killed in witch-hunting incidents in the state since 2011. The Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act, which implements stringent punishment and fine for branding and killing people after branding them as “witches”, is in effect in the state since 2018.

According to the law, witch-hunting is viewed as a cognisable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence. It was passed by Assam Assembly in 2015 with provisions of jail term up to life imprisonment.