Report by Badal Tah, Rayagada : Superstition killings are not new in Rayagada. In 2015, superstition claimed two lives in the district. Lotora Pidiaka and Apadu Melaka were allegedly killed by a group of villagers at Nathma in Rayagada block on the suspicion that they practised witchcraft. Same year, a 25-year-old youth of Kan village under Bissam Cuttack block was murdered and his body was set ablaze. The villagers suspected him of practising witchcraft. During 2016 in Puttasing police limits, on the suspicion of sorcery, a husband-wife duo alongwith their elder daughter were tied in a lonely place and culprits killed them by injecting pesticide into their bodies. The assailants then buried the bodies. Next day, they consigned the bodies to flames in order to destroy evidence. Last year nine persons, who were involved in this gruesome murder, were sentenced a death penalty by court of law.
During the fag end of 2017, 14 persons of the district were sentenced to life imprisonment for killing a man on suspicion of sorcery. The victim Dekhina Tadingi of Chanchara Durgum village was killed by a group from the same village.
Recently, Kashipur was in news again, not for Cholera but for brutal killing of an old tribal person on the suspicion of witchcraft. A small group of villagers barged into the house of Dai Majhi at village Titiguda under Dudukabahal panchayat of Kashipur block and mercilessly beat Dai to death on the charge of sorcery. They heavily thrashed Dai and his two sons when they were sleeping in their house. Somehow, Dai’s sons being seriously injured, escaped from the spot. Dai’s wife, who was also present in the house, could not do anything to check the culprits as they were violent. Neither the neighbours could stop the vandalism perpetrated by the culprits. One of the relatives of the deceased said that Mana Majhi, Naba Majhi, Bhima Majhi & Raib Majhi of the same village are involved in the incident. Next day, the sons got admitted in Tikiri hospital.
Despite the implementation of the Orissa Prevention of Witch Hunting, Act, 2013, that entails penalty and punishment for practising and abetting sorcery, the cases are growing. Rayagada tops the list of districts in the State in sorcery-related violence. Neither the witchcraft prevention law or fear of police action has been a deterrent in stopping the social evil. In most of the cases, the victims are either hacked to death or burnt alive. There are many more such cases which go unreported as the incidents are suppressed at the village level, sources said.
Usually, when a person is ailing for a long time or succumbs to any disease, villagers suspect it to be a case of sorcery. Instead of doctors, villagers resort to witch doctors, who name a particular person and accuse him of practising sorcery. There are many more such cases which go unreported as the incidents are suppressed at the village level, sources said.
In most of the cases, the victims are either hacked to death or burnt alive. Rayagada tops the list of districts in the State in this kind of violence. Sorcery-related incidents have claimed more lives in remote villages of Rayagada district than any epidemic in the last few years. There is no road to more than 800 villages in Rayagada district. Prolonged ill health in interior pockets of the districts manifests blind beliefs and believing in their providence.
“We have earlier mapped the areas of occurrence and taken action including awareness campaign. This is a continuous process. We are again accelerating a massive awareness drive against superstitious beliefs among some communities. We will request the villagers not to turn violent in false cases of witchcraft,” said a senior bureaucrat of the district.