Branding women as witches, witchcraft and such practices will soon become punishable offences in Rajasthan.
The Rajasthan Prevention of Witch-Hunting Bill, tabled in the Assembly, provides for life imprisonment if witch-hunting causes death, and imprisonment up to five years and a fine for practising witch-hunting, witchcraft and so on. At least 60 per cent of the fine will go to the victim for her treatment and rehabilitation.
Importantly, the Bill proposes to impose a collective fine on the inhabitants of a place who abet the crime, harbour persons committing it, suppress evidence or fail to render all assistance in their powers to discover or apprehend the offenders. The fine shall be spent on the rehabilitation and resettlement of the victim. The State government proposes to roll out one or more schemes for the rehabilitation and resettlement of the victim and to conduct awareness programmes on superstitions and such practices.
At present, there is no penal provision in the law to prohibit or punish those accused of witch-hunting and such practices in the State. The Bill prohibits any acts derogatory to human dignity such as forcing a woman to drink or eat any inedible or obnoxious substance or parading her naked or in scanty clothes or with painted face or body. Displacing her from her house and other property will be a punishable offence.
In the Bill, the term “witch” is described as a woman, locally known as “Dayan”, “Dakan” or “Dakin”, who has been identified by any person or persons believing her to be in possession of, or as having, any evil power for causing any harm to any person or property. “Witchcraft” has been described in the Bill as use of supernatural or magical powers with evil intention to call up a spirit or cast a spell or discover stolen goods. It includes such other practices which are known as “Tona-Totaka”, “Tantra-Mantra”, “Jadu-Tona” and “Jhad-Phunk”. “Witch doctor” means a person who is locally known as “Gunia”, “Tantrik” or otherwise and claims that he has supernatural or magical power to control or cure a witch or performs any ritual purportedly to free a woman from evil spirit. “Witch-hunting” means any act or conduct on the part of any person, identifying, accusing or defaming a woman as a witch or harassing, harming or injuring such woman whether mentally or physically or by damaging her property.