NEW DELHI: Witch Hunts seem to have almost become a norm in Assam with the state government itself admitting that at least 77 persons were killed, and 60 injured in the past ten years after being branded as ‘witches.’

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rockybul Hussain informed the state Assembly that 35 of those killed were women. The injured included 46 women. These persons had been murdered, the minister said, because of superstitious beliefs. Between 2010 and February 2015, he said that 93 instances of witchcraft had been reported from across Assam. He claimed that the government was taking measures to fight this superstition, and that the Additional Director General of the CD had prepared a draft anti witch-hunting bill as directed to do so by the Guwahati High Court.

However, the Assam police has declined to share information sought under the Right to Information Act about witch hunting in the north eastern state. Agencies report that the RTI Application was submitted to the relevant wing of the Home Department on March 14 and the final response was received from the CID wing of the Assam Police only on March 26, a good 74 days later.

“I am directed to inform you that this organisation is exempted from the purview of Right to Information Act 2005 as per section 24(4) of this Act vide Government of Assam, Notification No PLA-384/2005/54 dated 8th March, 2006,” Superintendent of Police (CID) said in its reply.

Last October television cameras recorded the torture and beating up of a champion javeline thrower Debojani Bora. She was branded a witch by the village, and beaten up at a community prayer hall in her village to the point where she had to be admitted in hospital. “The elders in the village proclaimed me a witch and pronounced me guilty of a the death of few people, who actually died of alcoholism. I was beaten up and tortured to exorcise the alleged ghost in me. Who will ensure that I get justice?” Bora told reporters at the time.

At least ten districts in Assam are reported to be inflicted with this menace. Media reports suggest a sharp increase in Kamrup, Nalbari, Jorhat, Goalpara, Udalguri, Kokrajhar, Sivasagar of such incidents. Kangaroo courts are set up in villages here, a woman and in many cases a man is branded a witch and the ‘death penalty’ delivered and as the statistics above show, carried out in several cases.