Reported by Sandeep Lenka
Bhubaneswar, Jul 2:
Superstition still prevails in the modern day society as at least 278 persons have been killed in Odisha in the last five years where Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s home district of Ganjam has earned the dubious distinction of registering highest number of killings.
The Odisha Prevention of Witch-hunting Bill 2013 was introduced to prohibit all forms of witch-hunting and other similar practices like Guni, Khata Bula, Kula Bula and Nakha Darpan. However, lack of enforcement of the Act has contributed to rise in the menace as the ill practices are continuing unabated.
As per data available, at least 226 people have been killed on suspicion of practicing sorcery between 2010 and 2014. As many as 56 people were killed in 2010, 72 in 2011, 52 in 2012, 42 in 2013 and 52 in 2014. While these figures were computed based on complaints filed with various police stations across the state, the unofficial figures are substantially high as many cases go unreported. As per a rough estimate, at least 72 people are hacked to death every year.
Social scientists opine that the killings due to suspected sorcery has its ramification both on victims’ family as well as on perpetrators’ families as they suffer for generations. Affected people living in tribal-dominated areas are especially the sufferers of witchcraft.
“The practice is rampant in tribal-dominated areas as they strongly believe in these practices. We have to break this false belief. The state government should take adequate steps to create awareness amongst them,” said Sudhansu Sekhar Dhada, a rationalist thinker.
Poverty and illiteracy are a major contributory factor to the social evil. Besides, inaccessible healthcare facilities have played a major role in driving this populace to the local witch doctors for help, they added.
“We cannot eradicate the social evils with empty sloganeering. The people, especially the tribals, need to be sensitised on this. Steps should be taken to provide healthcare facilities to them so that they get adequate care and get out of the clutches of superstitious practices,” said president, Odisha Rationalist Society, Dhaneswar Sahu.
Notably, such superstitious practices are prevalent in the tribal-dominated districts like Mayurbhanj, Koraput, Sundargarh, Keonjhar and in the costal areas of Ganjam.
“Most of the times, the literate people are responsible for this. They use the gullible tribals to usurp their land and other properties. They instigate people to kill people for their personal gains. The government should take measures and create awareness in the inaccessible areas to curb the menace,” said secretary, Odisha Rationalist Society, Debendra Sutar.