Black magic slur forces three families to quit village


Guwahati : Authorities in Assam are at their wits’ end after 13 people from three families were chased out of a village for allegedly practising witchcraft.

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A police spokesperson said tribal Bodo villagers late Monday herded the three families into a bus and forced them out of Khusurabari village in Udalguri district, about 90 km north of Assam’s main city Guwahati.

The bizarre incident follows a kangaroo court holding the three families guilty of casting evil spells on a tribal Bodo woman.

“A group of villagers, including elders, held a meeting after a local woman complained that three women of the same village, who were practising sorcerers, had cast some evil spells on her that made her mentally sick,” police official A. Das told IANS over the phone.

The villagers decided to punish the three families and summoned all the members to a community hall before physically assaulting them.

“The 13 people were forcibly shoved into a bus and were asked to leave the village immediately,” the official said.

The 13 villagers belong to three different ethnic communities — Bodo, Santhal, and Nepali.

The official said the terror-stricken families, who denied the allegation, were now taking shelter at their relative’s homes in a different town.

“This is nothing but an action inspired by superstitious beliefs and we are trying to convince the villagers to take back the three families immediately,” the official said.

Authorities have convened a community meeting Wednesday to bring back the families. “We would initiate action as per the law of the land. A senior police official and a magistrate have been entrusted to look into the matter and take appropriate remedial measures so that such bizarre incidents do not recur,” George Basumatary, district magistrate of Udalguri, said.

At least 200 people were killed by rural mobs in the past five years for allegedly practising witchcraft in the northeast.

Superstitious beliefs, black magic and demonology are integral to tribal custom in parts of Assam, Tripura and other northeast Indian states. Several tribal communities practise indigenous faiths, believed to be a mix of black magic and superstition, which are used to treat ailments or cast evil spells on adversaries.

The Assam police have also intensified its special drive to curb this social crime. Codenamed Project Prahari (Project Vigilant), 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 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.