Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Every once in a while, I come across news of witch-craft murders in rural parts of West Bengal. Such incidents are alarmingly common in villages of Orissa too. Like yesterday, I was particularly disturbed after reading about a man who beheaded his aunt with one swift lash of his tangia (an axe-like tool) in Mayurbhanj district.

That was not the gory part that upset me though:

The man actually walked about 8 km to a police station, with the severed head in one hand, the axe in another, and surrendered himself.

I asked someone to read the copy and his reply humbled me.

"This is very common there. The tribals, they are so simple people, they do such crimes on an impulse, and then don't know what to do with the head. So, they walk all the way with it and submit it to authorities."

Simple is the word my father also often used for the tribals of Panchamahals in Gujarat. He had spent the best, brief years of his childhood in a place called Dahod. Dahod was teeming with wilderness and tribals then and joy of his association with the innocent folks — with all their poverty and superstitions — has not faded till this day.

"They are very simple people who do not know greed," he says.

When I used to read about such witch-craft murders earlier, I was revolted with the sheer violence of the description. My immediate reaction was one of disgust and reproach. Last evening's brief conversation has changed the way I see things.

The act is not as violent as the ignorance, the haplessness of people staying in such remote, neglected regions is...