President nod to ‘anti-witch-hunt’ bill


President of India Ram Nath Kovind has given assent to the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015. The Bill makes witch-hunting a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence and is said to be strictest in the country against such a crime.

Assam Assembly had unanimously passed the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill in 2015 with provisions of jail term between seven years and life imprisonment and fine for intimidating a person by calling a witch or any act leading or compelling the person to commit suicide was forwarded to the President in December 2015. Not only witch-hunting, crimes related to other superstitious beliefs were also brought under the Bill.

It should be noted that, witch hunting involves the branding of victims, especially women as witches, either after an observation made by a witch doctor. The victim who is branded as a witch is subjected to numerous forms of torture, beatings, burnings, paraded naked through the village, forced to eat human excrement and sometimes even raped. In some cases their hair is cut off and the victim and their children are socially ostracised and even put to death.