Sundergarh (Orissa): Witchcraft is still practiced in many parts of the world including the poor Indian state of Orissa. Now a rationalist is trying to educate people and tell them how this is practiced.
Narendra Naik, the President of Federation of All India Rationalists Association, is presently on a 13-day campaign in the villages of Orissa to spread awareness against witchcraft.
In a typical example Naik, asks them to applaud the "mother" - a 11-year-old girl when her "supernatural" strength ignites the contents of a vessel on its own. Naik explains to them how the "link" is achieved.
The campaign was started from Sundergarh, district which is reported to be accounting for nearly 60 percent of these cases.
The Government of Orissa has a law, which prohibits anybody practicing witchcraft and includes a fine and even imprisonment. Interestingly, the majority of practitioners and victims of witchcraft are women.
But while actual instances of practicing occult are known, innocent women are the ones who are usually branded as witches by a few individuals. Many of these women are widowed or with no familes and have their own lands.
Naik, who is heading the campaign, says he is optimistic that his entertaining way of communication will bear results and create awareness among the primarily tribal region.
"The main benefit of this campaign is that people will now try to understand the cause and effect relationship of any issue. Now, if anybody is sick in their house, they will rethink whether that ailment was actually caused by a witch or due to some other reason," says Naik.
The campaign will travel to other regions of the State in the coming days and is getting the cooperation of police authorities. "It has come down now and we hope that after awareness is created the situation will definitely improve," says S. Saini, Superintendent of Police, Sundergarh.
Saini says that while the State police had recorded 18 cases of witchcraft in 2001, the number had significantly come down to seven in 2005.
She feels such a campaign by rationalists will help in bringing the number of such cases come down further.