Madhya Pradesh urban administration and development minister Narottam Mishra has directed officials to probe the social boycott of 20 families in Betul district for allegedly practising witchcraft. Each family has been asked to pay a penalty of Rs.10,000 to ‘get back to the society’.
Now, I susppose that being shunned until they pay the penalty is arguably better than being executed, as sometimes happens to “child witches” in Africa. However, one must wonder (and not being familiar with this part of the world, I have no point of reference to even offer a guess) how many of these families even have the Rs.10,000 being demanded of them, let alone the ability to part with the money and still feed and clothe themselves.
I think what particularly disturbs me about this story is that these families were “found out” through a baba performing a ritual designed to discover witches. So the baba fingers these families and now they’re on the hook. I mean, what if the baba got it wrong — or worse, is lying because of a personal vendetta? Do these families have any recourse? Or does being ritually “discovered” trump all forms of reason and/or evidence? If that’s the case, then I see a potential racket!