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In so many parts of India, a woman is easily labelled a witch. Why are women soft targets? Read to know more.
We may have heard stories of witches and disregarded them as folklore. But ‘witches’ are a reality in rural India, where superstition is easier to come by than education and medical science may be conceived as a myth. Quacks and shamans rule and conspire with locals to blame women for crop failures, illnesses and natural calamities.
Women are being labelled as witches in rural India to facilitate relatives and neighbours to conquer their land and property, to settle personal grudges, or even for denying sexual favours! Single women, widows or old couples may be soft targets although small boys may not be spared either.
In 1985, a boy in Assam’s Goalpara district , who may have been suffering from a mental illness was labelled a witch by the local quack and villagers. He was expected to die within three days. The child survived and his mother – Birubala Rabha found her calling.
Over the next three decades, this ordinary woman would embark on this extraordinary crusade against witch-craft and witch hunting, a social evil appallingly prevalent in Assam.
But the question arises, why are women labeled as witches so easily in rural India?
India is a county that believes in superstition. Women observe various fasts praying for the long lives of their husbands. The responsibility of the husband’s well-being is directly linked to her efforts and sacrifice. If the responsibility of savoring the life and health of a husband could rest on the woman, it is not alarming that the same woman is blamed for every mishap that happens to the husband or his family.
Women in India are deemed either auspicious or jinxed. A son’s business flourishes after marriage. The daughter-in-law’s steps in the family are considered lucky. The same son meets with an accident. It is the woman who is to be blamed. Horoscopes are reassessed and the decision of the marriage to this unfortunate woman is regretted. Till date, even in educated families, widows refrain from being a part of marital, auspicious rituals. Even their loved ones feel that it is a risk not worth taking.
It is therefore not difficult to exploit such psychology of perceiving women as carriers of misfortune and convince an entire village to target a vulnerable woman.
Birubala has a powerful message for women:
“Women have to fight against superstitions, women have to be vigilant. When you become sick go to a doctor, not a quack. Don’t have blind belief in rituals and worships. Worship your gods but don’t hate others in the name of your gods. Women can sometimes be their own worst enemy.”
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