5 reasons why witch hunting is prevailing in Assam
Witch hunting is one of the most dangerous superstitions prevailing all over India. Meanwhile in the last five years, Assam witnessed more than 400 cases of witch hunting. The witch is called as 'daini' in local dialect and is believed to cause ailment to people, destroy crops and other livestock etc. She is usually identified by an 'ojha', 'bez' or 'deodhani' (all names for witch doctors) and either banished from the community or killed. Various studies are undertaken to understand the practice of witch hunting worldwide and they attribute it to different reasons beyond mere superstition.
We present the five major reasons of this maleficent practice in the state of Assam:
#1. HISTORICAL RELATION WITH A RIFE AGE-OLD SUPERSTITIOUS TRADITION
The belief in the practice of witch craft has a deeper connection with Assam's spiritual history. As since 3000 BC all diseases and mental disorders were treated as being caused by uncanny super naturals, some of which are supposed to dwell every nearby human habitat in the countryside. Even Mayong , known to be the land of witchery and natural paradise is situated Assam. Mayongese believed to worship the planet of MAYA or BYADHI.
It's also believed that planet bestowed its devotees the art of black magic and sorcery. Various folklores describe its connection with astrology and practice of witchcraft. Similarly after centuries past in rural Assam the ojha, a traditional medicine man, is revered for his skills at countering black magic. According to folklore, the medicine man learns his skills which include identifying and curing a witch, but witches are said to be born with their powers. In patriarchal communities this is a convenient distinction. It is rare to find a female ojha. Interestingly Assam also has cases of male witch hunt.
#2. LACK OF EDUCATION
Illiteracy is one of the most effective dynamic pressures, which may have different root causes and potential to generate many unsafe conditions. Such unsafe conditions combined with some external threats mainly superstitions, which causes different problems to the rural community especially tea tribes and tribal community in which the practice of witch hunt is prevalent. Illiteracy also halts the overall progress of the community. So, practical education to all members of the vulnerable community including women is necessary for overall development of the community.
#3. HEALTH CARE DEFICITS
Every year, many people die of malaria, diarrhoea, and jaundice etc., in the tribal people-dominated areas of Assam. Due to the extreme ignorance of the administration, these people lack proper education, and is still today far from the glare of the media. As the people of this belt are unaware of the modern ways of health and hygiene, various diseases including tuberculosis, cancer, cerebral malaria, typhoid, encephalopathy, encephalitis, meningitis, metabolic encephalopathy, jaundice etc., break out easily among them without their knowledge. And which is later linked in illogical way of treatment and finally leading to witchcraft and hunt.
In majority cases in Assam it has been witnessed that there is a third party involvement in branding witches, which initiated the hunts in order to confiscate property, mainly of the victim. Jealousy and family rivalry are also seen in these cases.
Poverty and violence go hand in hand. It has been witnessed several time that Extreme rainfall (drought or flood), epidemic leads to a large increase in the murder of "witches"—typically elderly women killed by relatives—but not other murders. The findings provide novel evidence on the role of income shocks in causing violent crime, and religious violence in particular.