Author: Ritik Sinha, B.A.,LL.B from Banaras Hindu University, faculty of law.
Co-author: Rishabh Raj, B.A.,LL.B from Manikchand pahade law college.
We live in the twenty-first century, where our one foot is on Mars and the other on an evil belief. The classical period of witch-hunts in early Modern Europe and Colonial America that took place between year 1450 and 1750. Witch hunting is not new, but between 2000 and 2009, approximately 2500 women died as a result of an allegation of witchcraft and practise of black magic. They were severely beaten and forced to strip off their clothes and were burnt alive. Several cases of accused women being murdered by a mob have been reported. Jharkhand, a state in eastern India, was the site of a recent attack. The victims, all over 60 years old, were pulled from their homes and mercilessly beaten to death with sticks by masked attackers. Numerous cases of witch-hunting have not been reported because the victims were not aware of their existing rights and privileges.
Law in India And World Against Witch Purge
On April 25, 2012, in the case of Mrs. Sashiprava Bindhani vs. Union of India , Witch-hunting, which is common in various states, results in eviction, torture, and murder, but despite the fact that India is a member to CEDAW, no steps have been done to date to enact suitable legislation to address the threat of witch-hunting, which is common in this state. States including as Bihar, Jharkhand, and Chhattisgarh have already made steps to eliminate such practice’s, while others have yet to do so. As a result, the petitioner requests that the State be directed to implement legislation in this area.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recently requested full reports on witchcraft from Odisha's chief secretary and DGP. The NHRC is concerned about the Odisha’s Prevention of Witch-Hunting Act of 2013 implementation and the Odisha Government's devised strategy to stop witch-hunting. According to the NCRB, Odisha has the second greatest number of deaths due to witch-hunting after Jharkhand.i Furthermore, citing NCRB statistics, the Orissa high court stated that more than 2500 people were tortured and killed in witch hunts between 2000 and 2016.ii
According to sources, Odisha has an annual average of 48 sorcery deaths. Because no legislation exists to address the problem of witch-hunting, it is suggested that this Court direct the State
Government to put relevant legislation before the Legislature and, in the interim, establish guidelines to avoid witch-hunting in the state of Orissa.iii
In the case of Gaurav Jain vs. the State, Bihar was the first state to pass a legislature. In this instance, the court ordered that a committee be formed to recommend whether special legislation should be enacted to prohibit hunting. The Prevention of Witch (Daain) Practice Act, 1999 was passed by the Bihar Legislature (Bihar Act 9 of 1999). The legislature of Chhattisgarh has also passed a similar bill.iv
Several states followed suit, enacting legislation despite existing anti-witch hunt legislation. In many isolated places where women are unaware of the law or are unable to enforce it, relatives accuse them of stealing lands, money, or being misled due to illiteracy and false belief, I remember a case where a woman name Chamri Devi would take turns collecting firewood from the jungle neighbouring Baroti, their village in Ranchi district’s Namkum block, 15 km from the Jharkhand state secretariat. Her nephew savagely abused her since her nephew’s son had been ill for three months and a local Ojha told him that his aunt had performed black magic on his son, after which the boy’s father and uncle arranged a terrible trial, and the devi was mercilessly killed when the trial ended.
Jharkhand has been leading cases of the witch hunt because of not proper educated people. Local people kill innocent women by addressing her a witch, rape them, to acquire their property and sometimes it is being used as a tool for vengeance. Lok Sabha passed a bill regarding witch purge Whoever, accuses, identifies, or defames a woman by stating she is a Daain, Dayan, Daakan, Dakin, Chudail, Bhootni, Bhootdi, Chilavan, Opri, Ranndkadi, Tonahi, Tonaha, Banamati, Chetabadi, Chillangi, Hawa, Evil Eye, Halka, Daini, or any other term or sign suggesting her to be a witch.
Whoever accuses a woman of practicing witch purge or performing any puja or using mantra or tantra with the intent of harming another person by supernatural means shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but not more than three years, as well as a fine of not less than one thousand rupees but not more than five thousand rupees. Some provisions relating to the bill's criminal penalties.
Punishment for labeling a woman as witch
Punishment for intimidating a woman for practicing witchcraft
Punishment for assaulting or using criminal force practicing against woman.
Punishment for torturous or humiliating acts committed under the guise of witchcraft.
PROSECUTION OF OFFENCES
Notwithstanding anything comprised in the “Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973”.
Under this Act, every offence is cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.
16. (1) The victim is entitled to compensation for the fine imposed as a result of an offence under this Act.
(2) “The reimbursement paid under sub on (1) may not be combined with any other reimbursement or monetary support provided by the government as an immediate relief to the victim, or with the rehabilitation grant payable under section 24”.
17. The aggrieved party shall be eligible to file an appeal to the next higher court within ninety days after the day on which the concerned court has issued the ruling, subject to the code's restrictions.
Time to awake for the social discrimination based on gender
Society must recognize that witch trials are not only legally wrong but also morally and religiously wrong, and that they are not justifiable in every village. The government should launch an initiative to educate people about witch-hunting as a crime, and that no one has the right to kill someone simply because some tantric or ojhas have labelled her as a black magic practitioner. Women were burned alive in Europe's last witch trial in the 18th century, but in our country today, women are raped, attacked, murdered, and harassed due of accusations of daain. The majority of witch-hunt cases are now dealt with under section 323 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
As a result, “harassment of a woman, violence, social exclusion, and loss of rights are tried in the same way as a common assault. In addition, certain provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, such as section 382 'theft after preparation for causing death, hurt, or restraint in order to commit theft,' sections 339—48 'wrongful restraint and confinement,' sections 320—22, 'Causing
grievous hurt,' sections 359—69, 'Kidnapping and abduction,' sections 375—376, 'Rape,' sections 499—501 'Defamation' and section 302, 'Murder”.v
In the absence of a strict legal framework to address the problem of witch-hunting, the use of these components has led in ad hoc, uncoordinated, and often insensitive responses to the societal scourge of witch-hunting. A national law, on the other hand, would recognize, comprehend, and remedy the specific injuries and wrongs perpetrated against women who are classified as witches and oppressed. As a specific form of continued prejudice and violence against women in India, witch-hunting must be prevented, prohibited, and prosecuted. As a result, a more coordinated and consistent approach to national law will better address the catastrophic impact of witch-hunting on the lives of targeted women throughout India. It would also help civic society and law enforcement organisations to better mobilise in order to fulfil their responsibilities.vi Women are tormented and beaten to death by being labelled as witches in a society where women are adored as the goddess Durga.
i ABASH PARIDA, (2021), Odisha accounts for 2nd highest witch hunt cases, the pioneer
ii Golden, Richard M. (1997). "Satan in Europe: The Geography of Witch Hunts". In Wolfe, Michael (ed.). Changing Identities in Early Modern France. Duke University Press. p. 234
v Indian penal code 1860
vi Raghav Lakhanpal (2016) The prevention of which hunting bill as introduced in Lok Sabha , bill no 66