By Smithaa Patnaik
It was baffling when one came across a news that a ‘tantrik’ was trying to breathe life into a woman who had died after snake bite. Interestingly, the drama of resurrection took place inside the premises in Bargarh’s district headquarters hospital. It is not known what the authorities were doing allowing such an act of superstition there.
The above incident is one of the many such naked display of sorcery that has neither any scientific basis nor logic. Not only that the ‘tantriks’ try to breath new life but they are allowed to indulge in acts that even kill a person. Be it sorcery or witchcraft, it is time that the authorities have risen to the occasion to abolish such practices once for all.
The problem is, such practices are highly prevalent in the tribal areas of the state where education and awareness are all alien. Invoking the deities through a ‘pooja’ and appease the God through laughable yet dangerous acts of propitiation through animal sacrifice are all loathsome traditions required to be dealt with strongly.
What is ironic that such practices can be noticed in areas barely few kilometres away from medical centres. Sadly, even the educated people in some villages dare not raise the voice against such black magic practitioners who fool the community in the name of certain deity.
What we have heard from the childhood that normally the elderly ladies in the village always come under the suspicion of practising black magic and by that they can harm anyone in different ways. But, it is not the reality always. Sometimes many innocent women or men fall victim to peoples’ anger and either get beaten or killed or chased away from the village despite all the pleas of defence.
Why interiors alone, even such bigotries make their presence in places as modern as Konark, in Puri district. There is an occasional camp organised on its outskirts by a group of people, who half-bury the kids under hot climates in pits dug in sand beds for certain cures. One can clearly see and hear the painful screams of the children subjected to that inhuman act. Surprisingly, the parents of children stand witness to such cruel practices hoping something good to happen.
Instances of scalding in child’s certain body parts with hot-iron to heal some disease is so common, albeit barbaric. Even instances of old men and women getting stoned or beaten to death are many. I remember to have read a news item in which there was a horrifying detail of the death of a women in the Kaptipada village in Mayurbhanj district.
An old lady had suddenly disappeared for days. It was a challenge for the local police. To unravel the mystery the police ordered fanning out of all the graves in the locality. Luckily, from one of the graves an intact metal key ring was recovered which the grandson of the deceased immediately recognised and the killer was traced out.
It is not about the incidents of witch-hunting or practice of black magic, the most venerable victims are women in the older age group who get victimised and in many cases, the perpetrators of such practices escape the clutches of law.
A survey report made public in 2015 had revealed that 365 witchcraft deaths took place in a span of six years only. The debate is not about the cases of deaths or people getting punished for peddling such a dirty practice like sorcery or black magic but, it is the lack of awareness that has failed to make inroads into the society. Which alone can be the best deterrent against such superstitions.
(The author is an educationist)