Superstition-based Violence In Odisha Shatters Lives of Victims

Ganjam: Numerous incidents of torture being meted out to men and women over suspicion of practicing witchcraft have come to the fore in the past. Amid prevalent superstitions, while some had to undergo brutal harassment and torture by villagers, others were ostracised from their villages after being forced to consume human excreta.

Sources claimed that as many as 13 such cases of witchcraft-based torture, mostly from Khallikote and Kodala, have been registered since 2016.

A ground report of OTV reveals how ousted villagers of Khalikote in Ganjam district are desperate to return to their villages for a livelihood. In some of the rural villages in Odisha, a bizarre practice is followed which involves carrying of a cot by four people from one house to another to discover whereabouts of stolen goods and catch miscreants. Victimised by such a practice eight years ago, one Bhima Nayak of Khallikote area was forced to eat excreta and later his six teeth were uprooted on suspicion of practicing witchcraft. Following a village meeting, he was forced to pay Rs 5 lakh penalty and his family was ousted after that.

Days later, his brother Sudam Nayak was also ousted from the village in a similar manner. Since then, they have been spending days and nights taking shelter at bus terminals and verandahs of shops in Khalikote.

Similar consequences were faced by one Baya Nayak of Gobaralundi village in Sorada block of the district. After two villagers suffered paralysis attack, Baya’s family was blamed for the attack and brutally thrashed over sorcery practices. Even they were forced to consume human excreta and later ousted from the village. Though police arrested a few persons in this connection based on a complaint, Baya’s family is afraid to return to their village now.

Raja Suresh, State Secretary of Humanities & Rationalist Association says, “A law was amended in 2013, which mentions only about rehabilitation of women who are subjected to torture over witchcraft-related activities. The existing law needs a change and men should also be included and rehabilitated in such cases of violence.”

While the pleas of six such victims awaiting to get back to their homes failed to evoke any response from other villagers, DIG Southern Range, Satyabrata Bhoi has assured that necessary action would be taken in this regard. “We will investigate why they were ousted from their village and after a detailed probe, necessary action would be taken as per law,” said Bhoi.