Superstition is any such belief or practice which is in contradiction to modern science. It varies from region to region. Superstitious beliefs of a certain person may not be considered so by another.
Minds of people in Odisha are also clouded with superstitious beliefs. One such belief is that if we gift a pen to someone, that person’s relationship with us will turn bitter with time. Another superstitious belief is that if a black cat crosses our way on the road, our journey or the purpose with which we had set out will result in failure or no outcome.
It is also believed that if a jackal roars incessantly, sitting in front of a house, people residing in the house will die soon, somehow or the other. Another instance is that if someone sets out outdoors for job, no one should call him/her from behind. Its said that if the person looks behind, the work he wants to accomplish will remain undone.
Another such belief prevalent in the tribal areas of Odisha is the practice of witchcraft for curing illness or to fulfil one’s wishes. Rationalists feel tribal people are vulnerable to superstitious practices because of inaccessible healthcare.
Pratap Rath, vice-president of Odisha Rationalist Society and a professor of psychology at Utkal University stated that poor education is to be blamed for sorcery and continued superstitious practices.
People who can’t afford diagnosis and medicines from doctors tend to witchcraft, believing it to be a cheap way to cure diseases. This is how people fall prey to sorcerers, who blame another person for the plight of patient.
On January 21,2016, two people were murdered in Gajapati and Keonjhar districts for suspected witchcraft. On January 17,2016, a man murdered a 65-year-old tribal widow, accusing her of performing black magic, resulting in his son’s death at Munda Sahi of Malda village.
On December 23,2016, a 27-day-old child was branded with a hot iron rod by his parents to cure him from his illness at a remote village in Nabarangpur district.In July 2017, six members of a tribal family were beaten to death inside their house at Munda Sahi in Lahanda village for allegedly practising witchcraft.
In Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, people roll on a bed of thorny cactus leaves, thinking that it will make god happy and will definitely fulfil their wishes. People also lash themselves with a whip or walk on burning coals to satisfy their gods and goddesses.
Such instances gives me goosebumps. I don’t understand how people blindly trust these beliefs, which doesn’t have any scientific or logical explanation. To curb these superstitious beliefs, The Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Act was passed in December 2013 and came to force in February 2014.
It lays down punishment of upto three years with fine of 1000 rupees. I request all readers to forego these superstitions and make our state a better place to live in.