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Fighting the witchcraft deaths in Telangana

Our Bureau

Mr M.V Ramachandra Raju, Superintendent of Police, Rangareddy district, said it would require concerted efforts by social activists, NGOs, the police and even the political parties to rid Telangana of superstitions relating to banamati.

VIJAYAWADA, July 14

THE Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh — under the Nizam rule in the pre-Independence era and currently a stronghold of the Naxalites, has always had a violent and turbulent history. There is about the region — aspiring for separate Statehood — a touch of the macabre too.

In some of the Telangana districts, even today people are lynched to death, as in mediaeval Europe, for alleged practice of sorcery or witchcraft (known locally as banamati) and the problem has assumed serious proportions.

Outlining the gravity of the problem at a seminar on the subject organised by the Atheist Centre here on Sunday, Mr M.V Ramachandra Raju, Superintendent of Police, Rangareddy district, said it would require concerted efforts by social activists, NGOs, the police and even the political parties to rid Telangana of superstitions relating to banamati.

Citing the recent cases of lynching of alleged sorcerers (and sorceresses), belonging to the Scheduled Castes in the region, he said he had enlisted the help of some Vijayawada-based doctors, magicians, hypnotists and psycho-therapists to lead a campaign against banamati and achieved limited success during the past few years.

"Still, the superstitious belief in banamati persists and it has to be fought at many levels,'' he said.

He said in Rangareddy district thirteen alleged sorcerers had lost their lives since 1996 and 28 cases had been registered.

More than 350 persons had been arrested in the district during the period. He said there should be greater awareness of the social evil prevalent in Telangana in the other regions of the State and other parts of the country.

Mr Vijayam of the Athiest Centre here, leading the fight against anamati, said the region, which was under the Nizam rule prior to Independence, could not still shake off the feudal hangover and political parties were also to blame for not taking the problem seriously.

Dr Samaram, another activist, said the media was also to blame for instilling superstitious beliefs in people by telecasting serials about supernatural evil powers. The media should learn to be more responsible, he said.

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