Tuesday, September 20, 2005
The Great Indian Witch-Hunt
Yesterday i saw the special screening of "The Great Indian Witch Hunt", an award winning documentary film hosted by noted playwright, writer and actress Sohaila Kapur (sister of director Shekhar Kapur) and directed by Filmmaker Rakhi Varma. It was part of the 12 episode series "It happens only in India" launched by The National Geographic channel from September 18, with each episode focusing on an aspect of "real India" hitherto unexplored in detail.

Here is a report on the film :

"The great Indian witch hunt" explores possible causes of single and widowed women accused of being witches and their ostracism from the society sometimes with terrible consequences. Set in Jharkhand, this episode concentrates on a gory end to a woman named Mania Mardi who is killed by her nephew Gurudeo because he believed she was a witch who had brought on the death of his father and brother.

In the early part of the narrative, Varma interviews so-called witches who have been tortured by villagers and even forced to eat human excreta. She focuses on the activities of Baba Ramashankar who claims to have supernatural powers that can bring about the death and destruction of anyone he should choose to cast his fury upon.

For the murder trial, Varma uses journalist and author Sohaila Kapoor to conduct an on-camera inquiry of sorts that questions Gurudeo's real motives and arrives at the conclusion that he had wrongly assumed that his relatives had died as a result of a spell. Medical records showed they had contracted tuberculosis.

Witch hunting is a huge issue in many Indian states. The filmmaker chose Jharkhand because of the 500 or more cases of witch hunting reported there in the '90s. The film unfolds a disturbing trend and tries to find out the factual reasons that led to the killing of women after branding them witches. In most cases, the brutal acts were the fallout of property disputes or were instigated by witch doctors. However the film fails to give its viewers any conclusive evidence that 'Black Magic' really exists.

Ms. Verma concludes her story in a philosphical way by saying "Black magic like miracles, falls in the realm of what cannot be proved...it's a matter of faith".

The most horrific part of the film, according to me is the part showcasing 'Baba Ramashankar's rituals'. In the middle of a full moon night, Baba Ramashankar and his three women accomplices chant a heady mantra. They are all witches, initiated into the art of using their powers to save or to destroy through the benevolence of the one they worship -- the dain(witch). As the chanting reaches a crescendo, Baba begins to dance around the fire with a live goat kid hanging by his teeth. In the next scene, he has a chicken in his mouth, the neck of which he snaps with his teeth. After some time, everyone appears to be suspended in a psychological state that is far beyond the ordinary. Then comes a sexual orgy. According to the Baba, sexual intercourse is a necessaity inorder for him to complete his ritual and thereby please his goddess who inturn gifts him his holy powers.

The film makes you realise that for these people 'the belief in black magic is far more than their belief in magic itself'.

More on the film and the director, here....

Some facts about Witch-hunt in India

In the interiors of states like Bihar and West Bengal, 'witches' or 'dains' and their children are still hunted and killed. Witch-hunting is one of the least talked-about acts of violence. The murder of individuals and entire families accused of witchcraft is common in other states too, such as Assam, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

From 1991 to 2000, over 522 cases of witch-hunting have been registered in Bihar alone.

Main reasons for many of these accusations of witchcraft are socio-economic factors such as land-grabbing, property disputes, personal rivalry and resistance to sexual advances.

In many cases, a woman who inherits land from her deceased husband is asked to disown the land by her husband's family or other men. If she resists, they approach the Ojhas (traditional village doctors) and bribe them to brand her a witch.

The strategy of branding a woman a witch is also used against women who spurn the sexual advances of the powerful men in the community.

The Free Legal Aid Committee (FLAC), based in the new state of Jharkhand has started a campaign against witch-hunting. They provide, egal support to the victims, awareness and legal literacy through streetplays and publications, raising the issue at legal and human rights fora, and the formulation of laws and amendments. Their efforts prompted the state of Bihar to pass the Anti-Witch Hunting Act in 1999.

(Disclaimer - above information was obtained from here)

A very interesting article written by Brinda Karat, focuses on some of the Issues In The Struggle Against Witch-Hunting.
posted at 9/20/2005 12:18:00 PM | comments (6) | permalink


  1. Interesting stuff....
     — Anonymous Rajiv, at 9/21/2005 12:50:00 AM 

  2. Economics of Witch Hunting
     — Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/13/2006 09:36:00 AM 

     — Anonymous vitatvaadya@gmail.com, at 7/05/2006 07:39:00 AM 

  4. Killing women because of rumors and being branded a "witch" is terrible... hope we be given more information to help with the campaign.
     — Anonymous Ria, at 7/31/2008 11:26:00 AM 

  5. Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
    Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!
     — Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/23/2009 05:34:00 AM 

  6. good..../

    remedies of black magic
     — Anonymous adnan, at 5/22/2010 01:04:00 AM 

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