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NHRC seeks report on witch-hunting from Odisha CS, DGP

ANI | Updated: Dec 20, 2020 23:50 IST

New Delhi [India], December 20 (ANI): Expressing serious displeasure over the lackadaisical attitude of the Chief Secretary and DGP of Odisha, in prevention of sorcery and witch-hunting and in payment of compensation to the victims of such social evil, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in its order, has sought compiled reports from all the thirty District Collectors of Odisha.
The Director-General of Police and Chief Secretary have been directed to submit a report to the Commission on the steps taken to conduct the awareness programmes at the grassroot level of the state in all the villages and the compensation provided to the victims.
Issuing a direction recently on a petition filed by noted human rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer, Radhakanta Tripathy, the NHRC sought the requisite report by February 11, 2021.
The Chief Secretary of Odisha has been directed to take notice of the complaint in the light and spirit of Section 9 and 11 of the Prevention of Witch-Hunting Act, 2013 and direct all the District Magistrates to take action qua the implementation of prevention of the Act at the village level, through the involvement of elected ward members of village panchayats.
The NHRC also directed the officials to conduct awareness campaigns in schools with the assistance of recognised NGOs and also to provide monetary compensation to the victims or the family members of the victims, who were "killed, maimed, burned or assaulted on the suspicion/allegation of witchcraft".

The NHRC in its order stated, "Radhakanta Tripathy, an advocate and human right activist, had raised a very serious issue with the Commission qua the murder and killing of people on suspicion of witchcraft."
The complainant had filed a seven-page complaint in the year 2019, against the atrocities and violations of human rights committed against villagers in the name of witchcraft in the state of Odisha.
Tripathy, in his rejoinder, reiterated that state agencies are yet to expedite probes and trials of offences under the Prevention of Witch Hunting Act, 2013.
"The State of Odisha is a basket case, qua the violent attacks in suspicion on the practice of sorcery and witchcraft, especially against women. Despite the order of the NHRC, only five District Magistrates of Malkanganj, Rourkela, Rayagada, Cuttack and Sundargarh had submitted their reports," Tripathy said.
Citing the relevant portion of the Act, NHRC observed that the state government may make one or more schemes to conduct awareness programmes on blind belief and educate people about the absurd concept of evil spirits and witchcraft.
"It also provided for the compensation to be paid to the victims. The act of violent attacks, in suspicion on the practice of sorcery and witchcraft, especially against women was prevalent all over the world, including Europe," Tripathy said.
The same was eradicated and now no trace of it can be found in the developed world, however in India, other than few places, the violent attacks in suspicion on the practice of sorcery and witchcraft, especially against women are not found, the NHRC observed. (ANI)