President Ram Nath on July 17, 2018 approved the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015, thus, converting it to an Act. The Bill was unanimously passed by the Assam assembly in 2015.
The Bill seeks to fight the menace of superstitious practice of witch hunting that has already claimed several lives in the last decade.
Provisions of the Bill
• The bill recognises all cases of witch-hunting as non-bailable, cognizable and non-compoundable.
• It prohibits any person from identifying, calling or defaming any other person as witch by words, conducts, signs or indications.
• It imposes maximum imprisonment up to seven years and maximum fine up to Rs 500000 for branding someone as witch.
• A sentence of 3 years imprisonment will be given, if anybody blames a person for natural disasters in a particular locality such as droughts, floods, illness or any death.
• The bill has also proposed to set up special courts in consultation with the high court for trial of offences.
• Assam government will also provide free medical assistance to the victims of witch hunting.
• The Bill has strict penal provisions including imposition of fines on the community if found guilty of indulging in the crime of witch hunting.
• An awareness drive will be carried out among the communities about the law in rooting out the superstitious practice from society.
Incidents prompted by witch hunting practice in Assam
• Social activists, involved in anti-witch-hunting campaign, estimated that since 2002, over 150 people have been killed in the state so far.
• Over 70 people sustained injuries, while many were subjected to humiliations or were leading an ostracised life.
• In October 2014, Debojani Bora, a national-level athlete who represented the state at various national events, was tortured by a group of villagers and a priest after branding her as witch at Dokmoka area of Karbi Anglong district.
• In 2015, the year in which the bill was passed, a 60-year old Adivasi woman was dragged out of her house and beheaded by a mob at Bhimajuli area of Sonitpur after charging her of practicing witchcraft.
• A 40-year-old man was lynched by six people inside a Jorhat tea garden in 2017 on charges of witchcraft.
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