Lessons on witchcraft for Assam schoolchildren

November 19th, 2008 - 3:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Guwahati, Nov 19 (IANS) Little children in Assam may soon learn lessons on witchcraft in school - to combat superstitious beliefs that lead to a large number of people being hounded to death in the northeast every year. The idea of introducing lessons on ‘dayan pratha’ or witchcraft in primary school was mooted by the National Commission for Women (NCW).

“The idea behind introducing ‘dayan pratha’ in primary schools is to bring about awareness from an early age to do away with the primitive practice of witchhunting based on superstitious beliefs,” Niva Konwar, NCW member, said.

At least 300 people have been killed by rural mobs in the past five years for allegedly practicing witchcraft in Assam and Tripura.

“Such gruesome killings have sent the very basis of human rights for a toss,” said Birubala, an elderly Rabha tribal woman and a frontline rights campaigner.

Superstitious beliefs, black magic and demonology are integral to tribal customs in parts of Assam, Tripura and other northeastern states. Several tribal communities believe these can be used to treat ailments or cast evil spells on adversaries.

The NCW has asked police to ensure that cases of witch-hunting are recorded at the earliest.

“The law enforcing agencies and society at large should launch a vigorous campaign to fight this social evil,” said Mridula Saharia, chairperson of the Assam Women Commission.

Assam police have also intensified its special drive to curb this social crime.

Codenamed Project Prahari, the crusade includes community policing measures, besides regular awareness campaigns among tribal chiefs and village elders.

The police campaign is now focusing on educating villagers and holding meetings in areas dominated by tribal people where this primitive practice of witchcraft is still going strong.

“We need to bring about a change in our attitude rather than trying to enforce the law. We have to create awareness about this social evil to stop such barbaric incidents from taking place,” Assam Inspector General of Police Kula Saikia said.

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