Guwahati: In an incident of suspected witch-hunting, a 50-year-old farmer died after a mob thrashed him suspecting him of practising in lower Assam’s Kokrajhar district, 250 km from here, on Wednesday. The deceased, identified as Nirjoy Rabha, was rushed to the hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries.
Two others from the same village were also beaten up on similar charges. Police have so far arrested six people in connection with the murder.

Detailing the incident, a Kokrajhar police official said, “A 16-year-old boy was sick in the village for few days and villagers claimed that the reason behind his illness was practised by the victims. On Monday night, a group of 20-25 men reached Nirjoy’s house, picked him up and thrashed him.”

The official added that when the boy’s health did not improve on Tuesday, the villagers held two others from the village and beat them up too. “After a local alerted, the police rushed to the spot and rescued the trio. All the three victims, including a woman, were from separate families and were living in Madati village. The two other victims are currently undergoing medical treatment in Dhubri hospital,” the official added.

The six arrested so far in the case were identified as Hitendra Rabha, Sitaram Rabha, Kailash Rabha, Sujon Rabha and Mukunda Rabha. Police are on a manhunt to nab others.

After repeated incidents of witch-hunting were reported from several Bodoland Territorial Area Districts (BTAD) in recent times, the Bodoland People’s Front MP Biswajit Daimary appealed to tribal groups and NGOs to work together to eradicate superstitions like witch-hunting. Daimary said, “Since there are many superstitions prevalent in society, various NGOs and civil society members should work together to educate them. Essential medical facilities should also be in place in interior areas so that people can avail proper treatment and not rely on primitive rituals.”

Official figures showed a total of 133 cases of witch-hunting were registered across the state since 2001. The torment of witch-hunting has been rampant in 17 districts, with Kokrajhar reporting the most number of incidents—including 45 deaths. Followed by Chirang with 24 deaths and Goalpara with 17 deaths, Tinsukia and Udalguri districts recorded 15 deaths within the period. Other affected areas were from Nagaon, Sonitpur and Karbi Anglong districts in Assam.

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