Religiously Empowered Extortion

Tracie sent me the link to a story that I can only describe as religiously aided extortion:

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!

3 thoughts on “Religiously Empowered Extortion

  1. Erin: Well, the one thing that you have to bear in mind is that over there, the work of a baba probably isn’t seen as “witchcraft,” per se. Unfortunately, this is very common in cultures where the word was introduced by European missionaries who always linked “witchcraft” with “wickedness” and even “devil worship.” The cultures they evangelized came to understand only “evil magic” as being “witchcraft.” So a local medicine person, baba, or what have you that does positive things like bless and heal people are often seen as a separate group from the “witches.”

  2. Thanks Jarred. I think I sort of knew that. It’s too bad…some of the most evil people I can think of in recent memory claimed to align themselves with Abrahamic religions (Christianity or Islam), not witchcraft.

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