Position of women in India
Women are the victims of patriarchal society and burdened by customs and traditions. Blame for disastrous events or an unexpected situation is usually imposed on a woman by claiming it due to her bad deed or sin. Things are normalized by spreading propaganda to suppress the voice of a woman and to make her adhere to the mainstream culture. Black magic or performance of superstitious activities is usually associated with woman and therefore news of witches is common in villages. In this article, the author will discuss the problem of witch-hunting in India. Legal aspects/ law and steps taken by authorities will also be discussed.
History of witchcraft
Witch-hunting in India is associated with Middle Ages but still relevant in any remote area of India. It is first to trace in Christian states of Europe. The burden of the happening of an event which cannot be explained was passed to a woman. History is filled with spells, magic, healing power, etc. It includes both positive i.e., God and negative i.e., the concept of the devil. What appeals to one is God and what they don’t understand or what is new or deviant is labeled as Devil. Society witnessed many cases where women were lynched and murdered as they were believed to be a witch. There were also many famous witch trials such as Salem Trial in which many were executed. After the 18th century, witchcraft accusing declined drastically in Europe and other parts of the world. But reporting of such cases is still common in many parts of Africa and Asia.
1st case in India
The first case of witch trail came forward in 1792- The Santhal Witch Trail. Before that many cases reported but that is of a small level or gravity. Santhal Witch Trail gives evidence of witch-hunting in India. This is a case of chhotanagpur, which is one of the divisions of British India. This area was largely populated by the Adivasi tribe known as Santhal. Some women were brutally murdered since they were suspected of involving in anti-social activities. People feared that they possessed a special power to kill and manipulate the other humans or to spread fever in the village. Villagers took action to hunt them to save the village from the eye of the devil. This made the British ban the prosecution of witches or witch trail in many parts of India.
According to official data, 1,700 women were executed or murdered during the 1991-2010 period. And in the year 2012, 119 deaths came forward. No doubt, there are many unrecorded witch-hunting incidents.
The land of black magic in India
The black magic and witches’ capital of India is Mayong, a secluded village in North-East India. The name of the village has its origin from the Sanskrit word ‘Maya’, which means illusion. In this village, the knowledge of black magic is passing on to the next generation. Palm reading, healing with the help of unnatural power, oracles, etc. is a cup of tea of every resident there. This village is known for its black magic practice for a century.
To address the issue of witch-hunting we will see the laws present in different states of India. Usually different provisions of Indian Penal Code, 1860 are invoked in such cases such as Section 302 for a charge of murder, Section 307 for an attempt of murder, Section 323 for causing hurt, Section 376 for rape and Section 354 when woman’s modesty is outraged. Bihar passed ‘Prevention of Witch (Dayan) Practices Act’ in 1999. Later, Jharkhand made the ‘Anti Witchcraft Act’ in 2001 to punish one who treats women inhumanly while accusing her as a witch. ‘The Chhattisgarh Tonhi Pratama Bill’ was passed in 2005 by the Chhattisgarh state legislature. Rajasthan came forward with ‘Rajasthan Women (Prevention and Protection from Atrocities) in 2006 which punishes a person who calls any woman as ‘Dayan’ or accuses one of being a witch. Maharashtra faced opposition from many religious groups when it came up with a law against witchcraft. In Bengal black magic and superstitious activities are very prevalent but still, the state doesn’t have any law to tackle inhumane treatment given to a woman.
India doesn’t have law specific to witch-hunting at the national level which is one of the reasons for the current scenario where women are ill-treated and murdered for the superstitious beliefs or unacceptable lifestyles of a woman. State laws are not working strictly at many places and many people are unaware of its existence. Also, the outlook should be changed and superstition should be shed away. As we are moving towards a modern and scientific society, certain norms and ways of thinking must be altered.
“The views of the authors are personal“