Assam’s lynching trend: From ‘daayan’ to ‘xopadhora’

Friday, 18 October 2019


Assam’s lynching trend: From ‘daayan’ to ‘xopadhora’

Avishek Sengupta | June 16, 2018 16:54 hrs

A recent media report revealed that there were at least 134 instances of mob lynching in the last two years. But the trend has been prevalent here in Assam for much longer in the form of witch-hunting.

The report that aimed at showing the growing trend of religious persecution by mob or vigilante groups after the BJP had come to power gave a comprehensive scenario of the prevalent superstition in the Indian society. The scenario is much grimmer here, several statistics revealed.

According to a report presented in the Assam Legislative Assembly in 2012 by the then parliamentary affairs minister, now MLA, Rockybul Hussain, a total of 80 people have been killed in Assam in the five years from January 2006 to February 2011 due to witch-hunting of which, the majority of instances were at Kokrajhar, Goalpara, Sonitpur and Karbi Anglong districts.

Another record available with Mission Birubala – an organisation named after Birubala Rabha who was also once branded as a witch, more than 400 persons have been killed in Assam during the period from 2007 to 2014 in cases of witch-hunting.

But the core of the problem is more imbibed in the Assamese society’s superstition of visiting witch doctors known as Bez or Oja, Dr Nityabir Das, an activist of the Mission Birubala said.

“Sometimes more than one unfortunate incident takes place in a single village. People in the grip of superstition tend to believe that such incidents are outcomes of witchcraft by witches and seek help from an oja/bez or witch-doctors, who sometimes identify a person in the village as the witch and culprit behind the incidents,” Das said.

“This, however, has built an organised mob in the villages, ready to stand against any social stigma they believe as per their own superstitious beliefs. It consists of youths of the villages who are ready to take away the witch or in the case of the recent Karbi Anglong case, xopadhora (child lifter) to their own kangaroo court,” Das added.
It may be mentioned that among the arrested 30, all are in the age bracket of 30-32 years.

According to a senior police official, the mob taking law in its own hands is a prevalent phenomenon in the state.

“Whenever locals catch even a petty thief or a woman accused of prostitution, they first beat up the victim. Police, more than often, have to intervene to save the culprit,” the official said.

Decoding the xopadhora scare

“The message was fake, but not the fear,” Harsing Ronghang, a Karbi King, told G Plus when asked about the fake news of child-lifters making its foray into Assam.

Ronghang, who condemned the lynching and sought a speedy justice delivery on the death of the two youths, was of the opinion that even though no child-lifter might have come as circulated in the WhatsApp messages, there was a predominant fear of child trafficking in the district.

“Several children and women have been kidnapped or trafficked over the last few decades from these villages in Karbi Anglong,” Ronghang said.

The fear of the child-lifter, however, is not completely baseless in Assam. The state has one of the highest numbers of child trafficking cases. 

According to the data shared by the National Crime Records Bureau for the year 2015, Assam accounted for 22% of the total reported cases of trafficking across India. Assam also has the highest number of child trafficking – 1317 cases, which account for 38% of the national figure.

Assam had topped the list among the states in 2015 with as many as 1,494 cases out of a total of 1,539 in the entire country.

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