In a remote part of Assam’s Goalpara district, Birubala Rabha, 63, continues to fight social evils despite repeated threats. Her latest mission involves travelling with a 15-member team to campaign against witch-hunts in the state. “I will continue to work against the evil practice of branding people ‘witches’ and killing them. Now, along with likeminded people, I have decided to spread awareness in rural areas by touring them,” Birubala said.
In Assam, men too are branded ‘witches’ and killed or maimed. In 1996 Birubala’s mentally challenged son was labeled ‘witch’. From here began ‘Mission Birubala’. With the help of local activists, school teachers and doctors, a bill was advocated against witch hunting, along the lines of that adopted by Maharashtra, reports The Times Of India.
Calling upon the government to expedite the proposed anti-witchcraft legislation, Birubala said, the society too had a role to play in bringing an end to such dangerous practices. While nearly 80 persons have been done to death across Assam in the name of witch-hunting since 2010, Birubala, who was once thrown out of her village for raising her voice against such practices, has saved 42.
The Assam assembly passed the Prevention of and Protection from Witch Hunting Act, 2015, which is aimed at curbing a social evil afflicting the state. “This Act will help in proper documenting of witch-hunting offence, ensure a focused investigation and higher rate of conviction. It will be a preventive mechanism and help identify the role of the community, since it is a community-based crime though personal designs are also seen,” said Kuladhar Saikia, Additional Director General of Police who launched Project Prahari in 2001 to create social awareness against witch-hunting, reports Hindustan Times.
Birubala was presented the 12th Upendra Nath Brahma Soldier of Humanity award in Kokrajhar in 2015. Receiving the award, Birubala said, superstition coupled with lack of healthcare facilities has left tribals in the interiors at the mercy of quacks and voodoo. Winner of several other awards including the Assam Government’s Best Social Entrepreneur award, Birubala has been conferred an honorary doctorate by Gauhati University for her pioneering crusade against witchcraft and witch-hunting, reports The Indian Express.
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