Police launch awareness drive in Ganjam to dispel witchcraft superstition

Berhampur: Worried over rise in witchcraft-related deaths in Ganjam district, police launched an awareness drive to educate the people on such superstition.

The first such awareness camp was held on Friday at Phasiguda, where two persons died two years ago.

The awareness drive assumed significance as Ganjam is one of the districts where ostracising and killing people, especially old men and women, for allegedly practising witchcraft remains a socio-economic problem.

Besides local police, block development officer (Kodala), health officials, schoolteachers, students and campaigners attended the camp.

Such awareness camps and rallies, involving students, teachers and health officials, would be held across the district, particularly vulnerable areas in the hinterland, said SP (Ganjam) Narsingh Bhol.

The persons, involved in practising and abetting superstition, would be booked under Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2013, he warned.

“We have already asked the officers in all police stations to launch such awareness camps and educate people about the Act,” said the SP.

A senior police officer said at least one such case is reported every week in the district. A 50-year-old man was beaten to death by some villagers at Dhepaguda, a tribal dominated village under Patapur police limits, recently.

Ignorance, illiteracy, ill health and a strong belief in the witchcraft are some of the reasons for the wide practice of such superstition in rural areas, said E T Rao, vice president, Federation of Indian Rationalist Association, fighting against blind belief.

He said such cases are mostly reported from tribal-dominated areas.

In order to settle a score, some people in village try to brand others as practitioners of witchcraft.

Police need to book the tantriks (wizards) to curb such social evil, said K N Senapati, Secretary of Berhampur-based Humanist and Rationalist Organization.