Assam: Seven get life in jail for witch-hunting

Guwahati: A court in Assam's Chirang district on Monday sentenced seven people to life imprisonment over the killing of a couple after labelling them witches in November 2011. The case had been registered with the Dhaligaon police station in 2011.

Public prosecutor Karuna Kanta Das told the media that the seven were convicted on charges of murder and disappearance of evidence against offence under the Indian Penal Code. A group of villagers in Dimakumari in Dhaligaon, about 200 km west of Guwahati, had labelled 55-year-old Raman Narzary and his 50-year-old wife Bulaw as witches.

The couple was hacked to death and their bodies buried in a nearby pit. Narzary's son Amar had filed a police complaint seeking action against those involved in the killings. During investigation, police identified eight people as accused and arrested seven of them. The eighth accused, identified as Gauri Boro, is still absconding.

The seven were sent to judicial custody in neighbouring Kokrajhar district soon after the Chirang court pronounced its judgment. Witch-hunting is a superstition among some communities in Assam, particularly in areas dominated by tribals and tea garden workers. According to police estimates, about 140 people have been killed in such attacks since 2002.

Seventeen of the total 27 districts in Assam have seen such problems. The Assam government recently submitted an anti-witch hunt draft legislation to check the menace. It proposed jail terms between three years and life imprisonment for those found guilty of involvement in such crimes.

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