Thursday, October 30, 2014

Modern Witch Hunting and Superstitious Murder in India - CSI

Back in August, I posted this article which also discussed "witch-hunting" in India. This CSI piece offers some of the same information but with a differing perspective and focus.
Allegations of witchcraft that result in communal murder have long been a part of rural India’s history. Scholar Ajay Skaria, for instance, explored the torture and murder of women who were accused of being witches in British India. This practice has continued, though with irregularity, into the present. A 2013 Al Jazeera documentary explored the lives of women who were accused of practicing witchcraft. For those who are lucky enough to live after the accusations, they often are forced to move to a new area without resources to start their lives over. Many of the accusations have roots in property disputes, local politics, and disease, which then develop into allegations of witchcraft and then to violence. In recent years, there has been a concentrated effort to help women who fled their villages because of persecution. But according to Al Jazeera, there are only three Indian states that have legislation to address accusations of witchcraft.

There is no easy solution to stopping these witch hunts. Groups from all walks of life have attempted to stop the violence. A group of self-proclaimed witches planned to protect women by boarding a boat in Mumbai (Bombay) to send “positive energy” on October 31, 2013. However, Indian rationalists and women’s rights activists have pushed for more concrete efforts. Though they have sought stricter laws to punish violence stemming from witchcraft allegations, several groups want to change perceptions toward women and supernatural belief. Indeed, legislation is not a cure for superstition; improving critical thinking is the key.

Changing attitudes includes exposing fraud and teaching critical thinking about superstition, which sometimes runs counter to long-held indigenous beliefs. Outside intervention in rural communities is frowned upon, and rationalists face difficultly in winning support from people with heavily ingrained beliefs. The Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) has been fighting for voting rights, education, and ending bonded labor throughout India. Recently, it has taken an interest in stopping witch hunts through literacy programs in which women directly voiced their complaints to judges and state officials in attendance. The Indian Rationalist Association, which has more than 100,000 members, engages in rural outreach that teaches critical thinking and exposes superstition. While it is difficult or impossible to rid the world of magical thinking and superstition, there are many underfunded groups trying to end modern witch hunts that continue to plague remote parts of India.
Modern Witch Hunting and Superstitious Murder in India - CSI

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