Five women were recently lynched in Jharkhand on the suspicion of witchcraft. The state, in fact, ranks first in terms of murders in this category, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) from 2008 to 2013.
However, when it comes to witch-hunting, other states are not far behind. Odisha, for example, saw 177 murders for ‘witchcraft’ during this period.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, 2,257 ‘witchcraft’ murders have taken place across India since 2000.
Figures show that persecution in the name of witchcraft is not limited to states with a certain specific demographic profile or geographical contiguity. Haryana, for example, witnessed 57 ‘witchcraft’ murders in 2010, the maximum among states that year. Karnataka reported 77 ‘witchcraft’ murders in 2011, accounting for over 32 per cent of all such murders in the country that year. Again, Andhra Pradesh has seen a steady stream of such murders, averaging 24 every year for the last six years.
Rajasthan is low on the list of witch-hunting states. According to NCRB, only four witchcraft murders took place here between 2008 and 2013.
However, in the Assembly earlier this year, Women and Child Development Minister Anita Bhadel said that 43 “witchcraft cases” took place in Rajasthan between 2010 and 2014. Also, civil society organizations reported two instances of witch-hunting in May and June, both from southern Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district.
In April this year, Rajasthan finally passed the Rajasthan Prevention of Witch-Hunting Act, 2015. The act provides for life imprisonment in case of witch-hunting murders, and imprisonment up to five years in other related cases. The act also imposes a collective fine on residents of the area where witch-hunting takes place. At least 60 per cent of the fine goes to the victim for treatment and rehabilitation.