ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Burden of 'Witchcraft'

This is with reference to the editorial “Witch-hunts and Victimisation” (EPW, 18 July 2015). The editorial’s emphasis on the link between a lack of public health facilities and such cruel and regressive social practices stands in stark contrast to the emphasis laid in dominant discourse on the lack of education and modernity.
In Rupai Deeh block of Gonda District of Uttar Pradesh this writer has been witness over the past two years to the dramatic rise in public attention to a place where over the corpse of a monkey a rudimentary “temple” has been constructed. It is now drawing relatively large crowds. Those who throng to the place are largely women from deprived sections. Those manning the temple are now claiming to cure many diseases. Women suffering from illnesses, and even men, are publicly beaten at the temple. There is resentment against this activity among the relatively educated sections of society in the area. But this activity is continuing probably because those manning the temple and the gram pradhan belong to the same caste and are related to each other. 
I have been witness to how some have become prey to the practices of this “temple.” The husband and wife of one family, where the earning member suddenly became unemployed and with a history of psychological problems, now regularly visit this temple. The other members of the family are reluctant to take them to a hospital as that will require footing the medical bills. At times the psychological condition of such patients worsens which is claimed to be the manifestation of a divine spirit that has the capability to “tell” mysteries of various kinds such as theft, murder, etc. This initially threatened to snowball into a crisis when a patient accused a neighbour of “murder.” The husband and wife may soon succumb to their medical condition if they do not receive urgent medical intervention. Enhancing access to public health facilities and also contesting the idea of “witchcraft” through propaganda are the only way forward to root out such practices.
Prashant Singh

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