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Call for special law to curb witch-hunting

Special Correspondent

Guwahati: A State-level consultation on witch-hunting held here on Friday called for a special law to fight the menace.

The consultation, organised by the Assam Mahila Samata Society, recommended formulation of a State action plan and opening of a trauma counselling centre to reach out to the victims of witch-hunting. It was suggested that women's courts be set up at the panchayat level to tackle the problem.

The consultation urged the government to make continuous efforts to prevent recurrence of witch-hunting incidents and undertake special measures for improving health care, particularly in remote areas, and for generating awareness among the people against the menace.

Five women — four from Lower Assam's Goalpara district and one from West Garo Hills district in Meghalaya — shared the trauma of being branded witches by their villagers and subjected to torture. Kadai Rabha of Satabari in Goalpara district narrated how she was thrown out of the village after the locals branded her a witch and for three months she lived a horrible life, completely cut-off from her own family. Although she could return to her village on the intervention of the Assam Mahila Samata Society, she is still subjected to mental torture.

Senior IPS official Kula Saikia also stressed the need for a special law to tackle witch-hunting. He said the police had tough problem in investigating the issue as in some cases the entire community or village got involved in witch-hunting. In most of the cases no witness could be found.

Mr. Saikia, while serving as the Deputy Inspector-General of Police at Kokrajhar, launched “Project Prahari” in August 2001 in a backward tribal village, Thaigerguri. The project was aimed at fighting witch-hunting by uplifting the socio-economical status of the people.

The killing of five locals by the villagers on the charge of witch-hunting prompted Mr. Saikia to launch the project. He extended a helping hand by providing self-employment opportunities using the locally available resources. The concept was blending participatory development with community policing. The project did work and in less than three years witch-hunting became a thing of past in the village. The success of the project led to declaration of “Project Prahari” a State-wide project.

Chairperson of the Assam Human Rights Commission Justice Sujit Barman Roy also spoke.

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