THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY TRIPTI KEJRIWAL, A STUDENT OF NATIONAL LAW UNIVERSITY, ASSAM.
Far and between the circumstances and changes that human civilization has witnessed, there have been technological breakthroughs down the years which have intensified the quality and standard of our living. The so called manual life can be foreseen to transform into a robotic life in no time. There have been numerous scientific deductions and logistics that have a profound impact on our lives by holding varied concrete justifications. However, the shadow of superstitions has been lurking amidst these triumphs of science and technology. Against the era of modernism, there stands parallel the stagnant plank of traditionalism that in a way weighs down the progress of the society.
Human civilization has evolved to a considerable extent but is still entrapped in the clutches of traditional and primitive old-age beliefs which often make them get indulged in committing heinous crimes, thereby making them their victims. In the process of evolving and progression, there were certain situations such as hiccups, bad weather conditions, diseases, deaths etc. which gave origin to unwavering faith in those super natural powers which in a way proved to be more superior to that of humans. All these detrimental stances gave birth to the concept of ‘magic’ which aimed at gaining control over other powers and causing malevolent as well as benevolent influences. The practices which thus led to socially acceptable good motives were referred as black magic, whereas the negative ones were labelled as black.
Traditional beliefs are deep- rooted in the minds of people and as a result of this, witch hunting has been seen as one of the most heinous practices which seem to be never ending. This practice of witch hunting has wide ranging effects in the society. Amongst the black magic activities that are practiced in the present scenario, witchcraft has developed as a paranormal and occult practice which is considered as the cause of all negative and detrimental situations. Characterised to be spiritual, divinatory and mystic in nature, it is to this day; omnipresent is almost every human community of earth since the beginning of human existence, whose social structure incorporate reverence towards super natural realms.
Witch craft encompasses activities such as spell casting, enchantment, necromancy, demonology, divination, etc. it is basically a practice wherein the super natural powers are invoked by using certain techniques or rites. It is a practice which is considered to be against the publicly accepted spirited goals of religion as it is associated with commitment of deleterious actions which aims in flourishing evil agendas. Thus, it is claimed to be a ‘wicked’ practice and posits a very pessimistic outlook and impression.
In the socially structured societies, people labelled with such practices often tend to cause negative impacts, are less socially accepted and thus become subjected to ostracism. The art of witch craft is most commonly practiced by females as pointed out by studies. These women are mostly attributed the characteristic of being ominous and unpropitious thereby performing malevolent acts. The women so labelled are then branded as witches, trailed, raped, burnt alive, and also murdered. Thus, the process of hunting and harassing those accused of witch craft is what is called witch hunting. It has become socially accepted and justified for wiping out the mal intention driven witches from the society.
Witchcraft has been very prevalent amidst the global footprint in all communities due to the faith in its actuality and occurrence. It is highly common in rural isolated areas which are mainly inhabited by the tribal and indigenous masses. The belief that forms a part of this practice is that the witches manoeuvre the evil supernatural powers to cause unpropitious or doomy incidents. The onus of the evil happening is put on the female witch and she is subsequently subjected to huge outrage and repulse which thereby leads to callous and sadistic treatment such as banishment, rape, execution, burning alive, etc.
Sources and statistics have claimed that this practice has been rapidly increasing in certain states in India including Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, West Bengal, etc. The actual projection of reality is still not done and is much more gruesome.
It is believed that witches use magical powers to bring misfortune and cause detrimental acts. For countering this evil phenomenon, communities have recognised sorcerers who possess magical powers to identify the witch who is responsible and revolt against their activities. Once the witch is identified, the matter turns out to be a public affair rather than staying in the four walls of the house. Thus, the only solution the community members can think of is to destroy the proximate cause and thus they retrieve to this practice of witch hunting.
There are two kinds of recognised witch hunting attacks – surprise and calculated. The calculated witch hunting attacks are basically pre planned and work out as a means to seek personal revenges arising due to conflicts or fulfilling some underlying motive. In such type, the accuser and the accused share a gender relationship which plays a dominant role. On the other hand, the attack happens without any prior conflict or motive in the mind. It takes place randomly with none being aware of the accusations or events. It has been found out that the intensity of violence is relatively more in case of surprise attacks.
FACTORS OF WITCH HUNTING:
The factors or causes of witch hunting can be identified in two different stages- the early period and the contemporary period. In the early period, the main factor that was responsible for such practices to be a part of the society was superstition and such superstitious beliefs. Back then, the people had very les awareness about education and science, and thus they remained entrapped in the clutches of the traditions and superstitious beliefs and hence remained backward and laidback in all spheres of life.
But talking about the contemporary era, witch hunting mainly occurs due to varied reasons, personal as well as communal, including personal enmity, property rivalry, political conflicts etc. however, in remote areas and villages, superstitions still rule minds of people.
An account of the geographical positioning of the witch hunt practice, it is seen that majority of such cases happen in places which are poverty stricken and has appalling socio economic conditions. Poverty, lack of resources, illiteracy, etc give birth to development of strong blind faiths and beliefs.
This evil practice of witch hunting can be resorted if only effective measures and promulgation of laws are done in an efficient manner. In the international, national and regional arenas, there have been reformations and measures taken to prevent and eliminate such evil acts and thereby curb discrimination and violence against women. What is required at this stage is the addressal and redressal of such domains. Criminalization of witchcraft can be asserted as one aspect of justice.
The major barriers in the process of providing repose to the victims are poor and ineffective regulation and police investigations, indifferent prosecution etc. reformative measures should be implemented and remedies including compensation, support, community dialogue, protection against violence, etc needs to be done. Also, awareness should be made for meting out the long term problems associated with this evil. There should also be provisions made to provide for education, health, responsive law enforcement agency, etc which can help us eradicate such evils and practices and dream for a healthy society.
 Frazer, J.G. (1998). The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, Oxford world’s classics, Oxford Publications, p. 27.
 Varner, G.R. (2007). The Dark Wind: Witches and the Concept of Evil, Lulu Press, p 16-17.