Mail News Service
Seraikela, Oct 27: In spite of rapid social advances, certain superstitious practices including witch-hunting are painfully prevalent especially in rural areas belying the fact that one rural woman of the district, Chhutni Mahto continues with her crusade against these ills that smear the sanity lines of rationality and all this at a time when the valiant and determined crusader Chhutni Mahto is about to be honoured with the Padma Shri by the President of India on November 8.
The district administration has taken an initiative to curb these malpractices and a step in that direction saw Deputy Commissioner Arava Rajkamal flagging off two awareness chariots (vehicles) for Saraikela and Chandil subdivisions on Wednesday. He observed on the occasion, “Witch hunting is one of the biggest social curses. It is the individual and collective responsibility of each one of us to open the eyes of sanity of people who seek truth in falsehood and evil practices. The government and district administration are making all out efforts to eradicate this scar on humanity. We have undertaken to provide wide publicity, especially in rural areas, against such malpractices. Women have their rightful place in society and it is a major responsibility to make them strong and self reliant.”
Arava Rajkamal said that evil minded people with ulterior motives usually instigated people against women by spreading canards against them leading them to be dubbed witches or heretics and making them social outcasts. “Imagine the fate of such women who can be our mothers or sisters. Imagine the predicament of elderly women or those who live all by themselves. There should be no place for mischief mongers who harass and torture women. The state government has introduced several provisions that ensure severe punishment and penalties for people who fan the plagues of superstition and sorcery.”
According to the provisions constituted for protection of women, dubbing a woman a witch or spreading rumors about her being a witch or inciting a person to call her a witch or causing physical or mental suffering to a woman by declaring her to be a witch is an offense under the law. According to the Prohibition of Witch Practices Act, 1999, under Section 3, punishment for such persons includes imprisonment of 3 months or fine up to Rs 1000 or both. Under section 4, there is a provision of imprisonment of 6 months or fine of Rs 2000 or both for harassing someone by falsely accusing her as a witch. Under section 5, the person who abets the marking of a witch shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine which may extend to Rs 1000 or with both.
Similarly, under section 6, there is a provision of 1 year imprisonment or Rs 2000 fine or both for the act of exorcising ghosts. All the Sections of this Act come under the category of cognizable offence and are non-bailable. It was informed that a publicity vehicle each has been dispatched for Seraikela and Chandil sub-divisions for wide publicity against superstition and abetting the false concept of witchcraft. Publicity will be made in all the panchayats through three visits per block.
The DC appealed to l women of the district to extend all possible cooperation in eradicating mental and social evils like evil beliefs from the society and to give mental support to women who stayed alone in their residential areas. Seraikela Sub-Divisional Officer Ram Krishna Kumar and District Social Welfare Officer Shipra Sinha were among other officials present on the occasion.