Ranchi: In the space of just over a month, four persons were brutally killed in Jharkhand this year, all four stated to be the victims of witchcraft. On March 10, throats of Sushil Oraon and Jhibi Oraon were slit in Lohardaga's Lawagai village, while on April 16 the head of Budhva Mahali was severed and his wife Etwari Mahali suffered a macabre death at Haslata village in Gumla district.
The police said that the killings were the result of witchcraft being practised widely in the remote villages of Jharkhand.
The police's contention was corroborated by a recent survey which found that 1,157 murders, committed between 1991 and 2010, were due to the evil practice.
Since 2001, there exists a law in the state "Jharkhand Dayan Pratha (witchcraft) Act" to control the crime, but it has been proved more effete than effective.
According to an official report of the Jharkhand Social Welfare Ministry, mostly widows, single women and families with no male members fall victims to these arcane beliefs.
The ministry pointed out that the real motive behind the killings was usurpation of the helpless women's moveable and unmoveable property.
Jharkhand Social Welfare Minister Bimla Pradhan said Rs 20 lakh was earmarked this fiscal to organize workshops, publicity campaigns through the Jharkhand Information and Public Relations Department in an effort to weed out witchcraft.
This superstition has led to atrocities against women. The need of the hour is to launch a widespread awareness campaign to root out the evil belief, she said.
Hardly a month passes without a witchcraft murder happening in Jharkhand, particularly in the districts like Chatra, Latehar, West Singhbhum and Gumla.
It's because of lack of awareness (that such incidents happen). An awareness campaign will be launched to eradicate this superstition, Gumla Superindent of Police Jatin Narwal said.
If necessary, action would be taken against those spreading the superstition, he said.
The Dehradun-based Rural Litigation & Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), an NGO engaged in rooting out witchcraft across the country, has recently approached the Supreme Court pleading for a direction to all states to have strict acts in place to deal with witchcraft-related crime.
The SC observed that when women were getting fifty per cent reservation in legislatures, there should be strict laws to prevent atrocities on women, RLEK Chairman Avdhash Kaushal told PTI over phone.
Unfortunately, witch-murders take place practically every week, which is nothing but a murder for property under the excuse of witchcraft, he says.
Kaushal suggested that the laws be made more stringent by increasing the present three-month prison term for such murders.