The memorial of witch-hunt victims in Keonjhar, Odisha read "In memory of all
innocents who were killed being branded as witch" but still the gravity of the
situation is yet to be taken into serious consideration in India and a mere
statue to depict the guilt is not going to create a difference. Lets take for
instance, Poni Orang, a 63-year-old mother of five, was tortured and decapitated
by machete-wielding villagers on July 20 when a mob of 150 villagers went on her
home in the northeastern state of Assam. In connection with the murder, 16
persons were arrested, including nine women.
Are we still going to ignore this barbaric treatment of women based on
some imprudent superstition?. It is even argued that "Witch Hunt" is not just a
way to silence women but also a big weapon to feed the concept and fear of class
difference down everybody's throats. From poni orang to other faceless victims
of this heinous crime conclude one thing that, "Superstition is to religion what
astrology is to astronomy; the mad daughter of a wise mother."
Some might argue
that superstitions are the pillars that hold the religion together, these small
sweet naggings make the concept of religion complete and relatable to everyone
irrespective of their environment . In a country like India, whose
representation is very low in the world wide media its essential to hold on to
certain traditions and superstitions to keep the religion alive in everyday life
but do we want to do it at the cost of some innocent mother's life? Or some
daughter's dried up tears? Or do we want our tradition to be used as a weapon
against us, used by the privileged to oppress the illiterate and underprivileged
class of our society?
The Commencement Of "Witchcraft" As A Concept
Witchcraft belief is thought to have existed since the dawn of human social
life. Witchcraft has long been represented, documented, and thought to be mostly
a female affair that has been (and continues to be) done by women.
The words 'witchcraft' and 'craft' are combined to form the word 'witchcraft.' 'Wicce'
comes from the word 'Wicca,' which means 'witch,' and 'craft,' which
means 'skill' or aptitude.' Witchcraft is the practice and belief in magical
skills, and a witch or wizard is someone who practices or believes in
witchcraft. Midwives have previously been accused of witchcraft and forced to
confess by being tortured. People affiliated with witchcraft are viewed with
distrust and are socially less acceptable because the word is used in a negative
Witch-hunting, on the other hand, is a wicked practice in which women
accused of causing negative influences are labeled as witches by Ojhas (witch
doctors/tantriks) or community members and then hounded, banished, flogged,
raped, paraded naked through the village, forced to eat human excreta, balded,
thrashed, and so on. The study finishes with a solution to the current problem
of gender-based violence.
Introduction To Reprehensible Superstitions Surrounding Women and Witch-Craft
Sati pratha, the dowry system, and other bad practices have been practiced in
India since antiquity. We have been able to remove many of these
terrible practices as economics and education have progressed. Despite this, due
to people's superstitious beliefs, witch-hunting continues to be practiced in
various states across the country. Because of their belief in malicious
witchcraft, many people have been tortured and executed in the past. Even Joan
of Arc, who led France to victory against the British at the age of 19, was
burned alive after being convicted of witchcraft. According to the National
Crime Bureau's 2015 report, between 2001 and 2014, 2290 women were accused of
being witches in India.
According to RN Salvatore's book, Witchcraft: A Study in Indian Occultism,
released in 1981, witchcraft or "demonology" was a practice sanctioned by Hindu
texts in ancient times. The Rig Veda, an ancient Hindu scripture, mentions
witchcraft as a profession, and it was taught in ancient Indian universities.
According to Shashank Shekhar Sinha, an author and expert on local cultures, the
idea for the formation of the "witch" as a concept developed in the mid-1800s
when ethnology and anthropology began to emerge as scientific disciplines
pursued by colonial academics and officers.
Books, Laws And Cases Concerning Witch-Hunt
Brian p. Smith edited the book "New Perspectives on Witchcraft, Magic, and
Demonology." Levack encapsulates the key concerns of witchcraft and gender,
painting a picture of how women are persecuted as a result of practicing
witchcraft. It seeks to in-depth research the themes from the standpoint of
gender studies and the perspectives of anthropology, sociology, literature,
history, psychology, and so on, through numerous publications.
Dr. Anima Baishya's work "Phenomenon of Witch-hunting in the North East: A Major
Challenge to Women" was also assessed by the researcher. This book is a
collection of chosen seminar papers delivered at S.B.M.S. College in Sualkuchi,
Assam, at a national seminar on the above-mentioned issue. The articles in the
collection cover a wide range of topics, including trends in witch-hunting in
tribal communities, legal issues, and the role of the media in preventing
witch-hunting, among others.
The responsibilities of numerous agencies and
social workers who are always working on the issue have been explored in the
papers. The articles also propose a number of solutions for dealing with such a
Sita Anantha Raman's work "Women in India: A Social and Cultural History" is a
study on the different ways in which non-Western women have evolved and
articulated their feminist agenda. It is divided into two parts that cover
Indian history from ancient to present times, explaining why gender rights
beliefs did not remain consistent throughout eras or places.
covers a wide range of topics and makes an effort to contextualize Indian
women's status in society. Early India is depicted in the first volume, while
later India is depicted in the second.
Witch-hunting is a blatant violation of a citizen's fundamental rights
guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. It violates the Indian Constitution's
Articles 14, 15(3), 15(4), 21, 51, and 51A(h), as well as other national laws
such as the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and the Indian Penal
Several states have also devised and deployed their own tools to
combat this crime. Bihar passed the Prevention of Witch (DAAIN) Practices Act in
1999, which was then adopted by Jharkhand in 2001. In 2005, Chhattisgarh passed
the Chhattisgarh Tonahi Pratadna Nivaran Act. Rajasthan and Assam were the most
recent states in 2015 to pass legislation on the subject.
Despite the existence of these rules, offenders frequently escape prosecution
owing to witnesses' refusal to testify against them. This has been observed
before in situations like Madhu Munda v. State of Bihar. The defendants were
found guilty in Tula Devi and others v. State of Jharkhand, although not under
the Prevention of Witch (Daain) Practices Act, 2001. The burden of evidence was
placed on the victim in this case, who had to establish that she was being
accused of being a witch. The majority of the time, these governmental measures
have failed to shield women.
Quantitative Analysis Of This Menace To Humanity
In the 300 years of European witch-hunts, modern academic estimates place the
overall number of executions for witchcraft in the five digits, mainly between
40,000 and 60,000. The bulk of people charged were from Europe's lowest
socioeconomic groups, however high-ranking officials were occasionally
implicated. "The archetypal witch was the wife or widow of an agricultural
laborer or small tenant farmer, and she was generally known for a quarrelsome
nature," Scarre and Callow found. and combative character" based on this data.
In Europe in the 13th century, Germany in 1587, and America in the early modern
era from 1450 to 1750, witch-hunting attacks were prevalent.
According to data collected in India, Witch-hunting continues to be common in 12
of Odisha's 30 districts, particularly in Mayurbhanj, Keonjhar, Sundargarh,
Malkangiri, Gajapati, and Ganjam.
The majority of those who were subjected to such superstitious activities were
accused of "creating health problems or crop loss." According to the survey,
health concerns in children sparked 27% of instances, health issues in an older
family member triggered 43.5 percent of cases, misfortune or land grabbing
caused 24.5 percent of cases, and crop failure triggered 5% of cases. The Odisha
State Commission for Women and Action Aid, an international non-governmental
organization, issued Witch Hunting in Odisha on December 20, 2021. The
conclusions were based on 102 case studies of witch branding and witch hunting
victims gathered by Action Aid across the state.
Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Haryana, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya
Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra are among the 12
Indian states where witch hunts and witch branding are still practiced.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Odisha has the second-highest
number of killings as a result of this malpractice, behind Jharkhand (NCRB).According
to NCRB data, there were 19 witchcraft-related killings in Odisha in 2019,
compared to 18 in each of 2018 and 2017, as well as 25 in 2016. In areas with
uneven socioeconomic structures, gender inequality, limited healthcare, and
widespread illiteracy, the harsh behaviors were pervasive. According to the
research, women, particularly Dalits and tribal people, bear the brunt of
exploitation and abuse.
The research report, according to Minati Behera, chairman of the Odisha State
Commission for Women, compiled evidence of numerous types of human rights abuses
related to witch hunts and witch branding. The study attempted to identify
weaknesses in the current law � the Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2013
� with the goal of suggesting ways to enhance it, she explained. "Witch
persecution of women is considered by the Commission to be a violation of
As recommended by the report, the Commission will take
additional efforts to change the existing law to provide proper protection to
victims of witch branding," Behera stated. She also stated that the panel will
work with many stakeholders to ensure that different ministries work together to
solve the issue of witch branding. Lets take a look at all these analytical data
collected from around the globe to compare the alarming condition in India -
Three main acts were established to punish witches in England during
Queen Elizabeth's reign. In the legendary trial of 'The Chelmsford Witches,' a
lady named Agnes Waterhouse became the first person to be executed in England
for witchcraft. In the early 1600s, King James I of England backed witch hunts,
which culminated in the trial of 'The Pendle Witches.'
The 'Trier Witch Trials' were Europe's largest witch trials. Between
1581 and 1593, over 368 persons were executed, including respected citizens,
academics, and judges.
'The Salem Witch Trials, which took place in the Massachusetts
settlement of Salem in 1690, marked the start of this practice in America.'
During the trial, a number of people were executed. Before 1792, there is no
trace of witch-hunting in India. The Santhal witch trials in 1792 are the
earliest evidence of witch-hunts in India.
Not only were individuals accused of
being witches murdered in the Singhbhum district of the Chotanagpur division in
Company-ruled India, but also those close to the accused to guarantee that they
would not avenge the deaths. The Santhals, an Adivasi community, colonized the
Chotanagpur region in large numbers.
The Santhals had a strong conviction in the
existence of witches. Witches were feared and were thought to be dangerous. They
were also said to have the ability to kill individuals by eating their
intestines and infecting livestock with fevers, among other things. As a result,
the Adivasi population believed that the cure to their ailment and sickness was
the abolition of the witches who were believed to be the reason.
Wicked Witch or Wicked Superstitions?
India is a country where women are seen as symbols or tokens of their
communities, families, castes, and other social divides. On the one hand, people
worship them in the name of Goddesses, while on the other, they are killed as
witches. Killing is not a recent phenomenon in Indian society; it has ancient
historical origins. When the notion of a witch was first debated, people
imagined an ugly woman with a broom who could fly and disappear.
A lady might be accused of witchcraft for a variety of reasons. It might be a
simple explanation in a situation where there are no simple solutions. When
people are in an undesirable position where they have no control, it may offer
them a sense of control and the opportunity to blame others.
Women may be
accused of sorcery, branded as witches, and pursued for a variety of causes,
including the loss of a child, a disease epidemic, bad weather, and a poor crop.
Between 2000 and 2016, more than 2500 persons in India were tortured and killed
in these hunts, according to India's National Crime Records Bureau, the majority
of them were women.
Almost 200 individuals, mostly women, have been killed in Assam, India's
northeastern state, for witchcraft and sorcery. In 2017, numerous such
occurrences were reported in Rajasthan, including the murder of Kanya Devi, a
40-year-old woman who was beaten to death after being accused of performing
black magic. Despite being the poorest state in India, Bihar was the first to
implement a law against witch-hunting in 1999.
Jharkhand and Rajasthan have
passed laws to protect women from inhuman treatment and provide legal recourse
to abuse. Section 3, 4, 5, and 6 of the concerned Act talk about the punishment
which will be granted if anyone identifies someone as a witch, tries to cure the
witch, and any damages caused to them.
Section 7 states the procedure for trial.
The Chhattisgarh bill was established to prevent atrocities on women in the name
of Tonhi. Almost 200 individuals, primarily women, have been killed in Assam,
India's northeastern state, for witchcraft and sorcery. Witch-hunting is a
common practice among indigenous people in Assam and adjoining areas. Many
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are fighting to prevent and protect women
from the societal scourge of witch hunts.
Pertinency Of Witch Hunting In The Contemporary World
Witch hunts are being carried out today in communities where magic is widely
believed. The majority of them are lynchings and burnings , which have been
recorded on a regular basis over much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Saudi Arabia, and
Papua New Guinea. Furthermore, several nations have laws prohibiting the
practice of sorcery. Saudi Arabia is the only nation where witchcraft is still
officially punished by death. Even in the twenty-first century, witch hunts are
far from extinct. This is still a terrible reality for many women in many
nations today. As a result, the 10th of August has been designated as a World
Day Against Witch Hunts.
In recent times, the UNHCR of the United Nations has consistently highlighted
witch-hunts as a huge violation of human rights. The majority of those accused
are women and children, but they can also be elderly persons or members
of stigmatized groups such as albinos and HIV-positive people. As a result,
these victims are frequently pushed away, starved to death, or slain violently,
sometimes by their own relatives in acts of social cleansing.
societal upheavals, and a lack of knowledge are all factors that contribute to
witch hunts. The witch-leader, hunt's usually a prominent member of the
community or a "witch doctor," may also profit financially by charging for
exorcisms or selling the victims' body parts.
In India, some individuals, mostly in rural, believe that witchcraft and black
magic are effective. On the one side, people may seek witch doctor counsel for
health, financial, or marital issues. People, particularly women, are accused of
witchcraft and assaulted, with some being killed. It has been observed that the
majority of the victims are widows or divorcees who have been robbed of their
According to reports, renowned local witch-doctors are paid to brand
certain individuals as witches, allowing them to be murdered without
repercussions. Existing legislation have been deemed unsuccessful in reducing
homicides. In June 2013, the National Commission for Women (NCW) revealed that
768 women have been murdered for allegedly practicing witchcraft since 2008,
according to National Crime Records Bureau figures, and proposed preparations
for newer regulations.
Because there is no explicit national legislation
that criminalizes witch-hunting, the provisions of the Indian Penal Code 1860
might be utilized as a substitute for the victim. Sec. 302, which punishes
murder, Sec. 307, which punishes attempted murder, Sec. 323, which punishes
harm, Sec. 376, which punishes rape, and Sec. 354, which punishes outraging a
woman's modesty, are the various provisions mentioned in such circumstances.
Witch-hunting is a blatant violation of a citizen's fundamental rights
guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. It violates the Indian Constitution's
Articles 14, 15(3), 15(4), 21, 51, and 51A(h), as well as other national laws
such as the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, and the Scheduled Castes and
Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and involves acts
punishable under the Indian Penal Code,1860.
Several states have also devised and deployed their own tools to combat this
crime. Bihar passed the Prevention of Witch (DAAIN) Practices Act in 1999, which
was then adopted by Jharkhand in 2001. In 2005, the Chhattisgarh Tonhi Pratadna
Nivaran Act was enacted. Rajasthan and Assam were the most recent states in 2015
to pass legislation on the subject.
Elucidation Of At Hand Solutions
There were no stringent laws on the issue prior to the establishment of
state-level legislation on the subject, and the accused were prosecuted under
Indian Penal Code Section 323, 354, 509, and the savage actions of stoning and
tonsuring were considered as simple harm. Furthermore, existing laws are
insufficient since they focus on punitive mechanisms rather than the need to
eliminate unreasonable and bad superstitious beliefs.
The methods for reporting
instances are likewise restricted, and the victims' and survivors' urgent needs
are not met. Because the attacks are depicted as the consequence of mob rage,
the accused (typically influential males in the town) are frequently left
Because of their fear or acceptance of the practice, victims and others seldom
come forward to report it. The offenders are released due to a lack of proof.
Witch-hunting is a violation of civil rights guaranteed by international
treaties and the Constitution, including the right to security, the right to
life, the right to be free from discrimination, the right to a decent life, and
other basic rights.
Shri Raghav Lakhanpal presented the Prevention of Witch Hunting Bill in the Lok
Sabha in 2016, however it was never approved. Currently, there is no efficient
system in place to assist victims in recovering from the effects of
witch-hunting, such as forced displacement, expulsion from the community, social
and economic boycotts, and so on. As a result, national legislation is urgently
needed to combat this scourge.
In 2015, the film 'Kala Sacch' was released,
based on a true story in Jharkhand in which a woman named Seeta Devi was
suspected of being a witch and was punished by having her body pierced with
needles and her husband disabled, but the accused were not found guilty. The
film was part of a campaign to get the federal government to pass laws on the
Cessation For The Topic And Way Forward
While witch-hunting may appear to be a thing of the past, it is nevertheless
practiced in rural India today. Women are tortured, robbed, and killed as a
result of being identified as witches in modern-day witch hunts. Giving a woman
this name is a powerful and deadly act, whether it's because someone wants their
property or they need someone to blame for an unpleasant incident.
How is it permissible to classify someone as socially inferior or undesirable in
this period, where we talk of women's growth, women empowerment, and gender
equality, i.e. feminism? Every year, thousands of women, men, and children are
tortured to death, and the rise in cases shows that legislation and efforts by
associated NGOs are insufficient until people alter their beliefs. Every year,
the number of such incidents rises, indicating how far society has regressed.
The tradition of witch-hunting is still practiced in India today. The causes for
this include a lack of national law, a lack of evidence and reporting, and
inefficient enforcement of existing rules. Today, there is a major
anti-witch-hunting movement. Laws have been enacted, and support groups exist to
assist women in obtaining legal assistance. Even though there has been a rise in
awareness of this issue in the last four years, it hasn't halted the practice.
Women continue to be concerned about their safety.
Despite the fact that it is
under-reported and a long-standing practice, the figures are improving. It is
gradually reducing, and the legislation is becoming more widely applied This
heinous practise of witch-hunting may be put to an end if only proper measures
and regulations are enacted. Reforms and actions have been implemented on an
international, national, and regional level to prevent and eliminate such
immoral acts, consequently reducing prejudice and violence against women. At
this point, the attention and redressal of such domains are necessary.
component of justice might be argued in the outlawing of witchcraft. Poor and
inadequate regulation, police investigations, inattentive prosecution, and other
factors are important roadblocks in the process of providing victims with
relaxation. Reformative measures should be adopted, as well as remedies such as
compensation, assistance, community discourse, and safety from violence.
Additionally, awareness should be raised in order to address the long-term
issues linked with this atrocity. Provisions for education, health, and a
responsive law enforcement agency, among other things, should be created to
assist us remove such ills and behaviors and dream of a healthy society.
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Jensen. Reviewed in Contemporary Sociology: A Journal of Reviews, 36 (2):
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trends, prevalence and the law in northern, western, eastern and northeastern
regions of India. New Delhi: PLD.
- http://theviewspaper.net/witch hunting-in-india/
- (Witch-Hunt Victims Memorial. | Odisha Police, 2022)
- Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
- A Treatise in Toleration'. In Voltaire, Tobias George Smollett (ed.) and
William F. Fleming (trans.), The Works of Voltaire (1904), Vol. 4, 265
Witch-Hunting: A Barbaric Practice that Threatens Women Even Today
Need For Statutory Restrictions On Witchcraft
Black Magic and Witchcraft cases: A Legal Analysis
Feminist Criminology And Integrated Theory
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Anisha Arya & Ms.Ritika Mishra
Authentication No: AR210883511876-18-0422