Witch Hunts in India Still Kill Women Today

India

Author: Michigan State University
Published: 2012/09/06 - Updated: 2023/07/04
Publication Type: Informative - Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Contents: Summary - Introduction - Main - Related

Synopsis: Witch hunts in Jalpaiguri India fueled by tribal workers belief in existence of witches and need of poor illiterate population to make sense of rampant diseases in villages with no doctors or medical facilities. In 2003, at a tea plantation in Jalpaiguri, five women were tied up, tortured, and killed after being falsely accused of witchcraft in the death of a male villager who had suffered from a stomach illness. Soma Chaudhuri spent seven months studying witch hunts in her native India and discovered that the economic self-help groups have made it part of their agenda to defend their fellow plantation workers against the hunts.

Introduction

Witch hunts targeted by grassroots women's groups - Witch hunts are common and sometimes deadly in the tea plantations of Jalpaiguri, India. But a surprising source - small groups of women who meet through a government loan program - has achieved some success in preventing the longstanding practice, a Michigan State University sociologist found.

Main Digest

Soma Chaudhuri spent seven months studying witch hunts in her native India and discovered that the economic self-help groups have made it part of their agenda to defend their fellow plantation workers against the hunts.

"It's a grassroots movement, and it's helping provide a voice to women who wouldn't otherwise have one," said Chaudhuri, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice. "I can see the potential for this developing into a social movement, but it's not going to happen in a day because an entire culture needs to be changed."

Witch hunts, she explained, are fueled by the tribal workers' belief in the existence of witches and the desperate need of this poor, illiterate population to make sense of rampant diseases in villages with no doctors or medical facilities. There are some 84 million tribal people in India, representing about 8 percent of the country's population.

In 2003, at a tea plantation in Jalpaiguri, five women were tied up, tortured, and killed after being falsely accused of witchcraft in the death of a male villager who had suffered from a stomach illness. Chaudhuri interviewed the villagers at length and found that such attacks are often impulsive and that the "witch" is often killed immediately. Widespread alcoholism is also a factor, she found.

The study also documents examples of women's groups stopping potential attacks.

In one case, a woman was accused of causing disease in livestock, and an attack was planned. Members of the self-help groups gathered in a vigil around the woman's home and surrounded the accuser's home as well, stating their case to the accuser's wife. Eventually, the wife intervened, and her husband recanted and "begged for forgiveness."

Through the loan program, each woman is issued a low-interest, collateral-free "micro-credit" loan of about 750 rupees ($18) to start her own business, such as basket weaving, tailoring, or selling chicken eggs. Participants meet in groups of about eight to 10 to support one another.

Chaudhuri said the loan program is run by nongovernmental activists who have been successful in encouraging the groups to look beyond the economic aspects and mobilize against domestic abuse, alcoholism, and the practice of witch hunts.

Through the bonds of trust and friendship, group members have collectively established the necessary social capital to resist the deep-seated tradition of witch hunts, Chaudhuri said.

"Why would they go against something so risky, something that breaks tradition," she said. "They do it because they believe in the ideals of the micro-credit group - in women's development, family development, and gender equality."

The study, which Chaudhuri co-authored with Anuradha Chakravarty of the University of South Carolina, appears in Mobilization, an international research journal.

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Attribution/Source(s):

This peer reviewed publication was selected for publishing by the editors of Disabled World due to its significant relevance to the disability community. Originally authored by Michigan State University, and published on 2012/09/06 (Edit Update: 2023/07/04), the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or brevity. For further details or clarifications, Michigan State University can be contacted at msu.edu. NOTE: Disabled World does not provide any warranties or endorsements related to this article.

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Cite This Page (APA): Michigan State University. (2012, September 6 - Last revised: 2023, July 4). Witch Hunts in India Still Kill Women Today. Disabled World. Retrieved July 13, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/news/asia/india/jalpaiguri-witch-hunt.php

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