Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi recently announced that the state government was contemplating to enact a law to put an end to the practice of witchcraft.
"There has been a noticeable rise in cases where people are getting killed after being suspected of practising witchcraft in Kokrajhar and Jorhat districts of Assam," he said.
The chief minister went on to say that apart from enacting a new law to eradicate the practice, the government would launch an awareness campaign. In the last decade alone, Assam has witnessed nearly 100 killings as a result of various social evils practised by people inspired by superstition.
According to police records, 21 cases of witch-hunting were registered in 2006, followed by 7 cases in 2007, 10 cases in 2008, 4 cases in 2009, 11 cases in 2010, 29 cases in 2011 and 14 cases in 2012 across Assam.
Social activists in the state have welcomed the proposed initiative, but pointed out that if it was not given more teeth it would meet the same fate as happened in states like Bihar, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh where a similar legislation exists.
In those states, the law has failed to act as a deterrent since the provision of punishment enshrined in the law is mild. At most, the punishment amounts to three months in jail and a penalty of Rs 1,000.