The girl from Juladera Kenduadari Munda Sahi village of Khuntapada panchayat under Telkoi police limits was admitted to class one of Talasahi Sevashram a tribal residential school last year. When her father dropped the girl in the Sevashram on January 03, after the x-mass holidays, the teachers there refused her entry into the school.
The head mistress alleged that the girl was a witch, she turns into a cat in the night and sucks blood from other inmates. Pronouncing the verdict that a witch can not be accommodated in the Sevashram hostel, the teachers threw away her belongings out of the hostel.
Prayers and request by the father of the girl Birsinh Munda could not bring in any sense. Dejected, the father complained with the Tehsildar and the District Collector. The collector swung into action to suspend the Head Mistress and restore the girl into the school.
But, another student of the same Sevashram, Gurucharan Jamuda (9 years) was not that fortunate to invite immediate attention of the media as well as the district administration. The investigating officials headed by the officiating district collector Sangram Keshari Swain have found out that a similar incident had taken place in the school last year.
Gurucharan Jamuda, a tribal boy was refused entry into the Sevashram on the grounds of being a witch by the same teacher. Father of Gurucharan, Budhilal Jamuda has complained with the Block Development Officer and the district administration. While repeated appeals did not yield any result, the family was compelled to admit the boy into another school Durllavapur Primary School.
But for this the boy had to lose one year. He was admitted to class one, even though he was reading in second class while this incident took place. Apart from losing a year Gurucharan also has to commute daily as this school does not have hostel facility. These Sevashrams are run by the Tribal and Harijan Welfare department to facilitate education of the scheduled caste and scheduled tribe student. The boy is studying in class II at present.
The District Collector has assured that stern action will be taken against those found guilty. For the time being the headmistress has been relieved of her charge. Siksha Sahayak of the school has been entrusted with her charge.
It is noteworthy to mention here that barely a month back on 5th of December 2013, Odisha Legislative Assembly had enacted Odisha Prevention of Witch Hunting Bill, 2013. This legislation provided for effective measures to tackle the menace of witch hunting and prevent the practice of witchcraft with evil intention to harm others.
Penal provisions of minimum three years of imprisonment with a fine not less that Rs.1000 has been made for the crime of witch hunting, and abating or provoking for witchcraft. The imprisonment could be up to five years also. For the second time crime it could extend up to seven years.
However despite the risk of severe punishments, such incidents continue to happen in different parts of the state as the information and awareness about such enactments is yet to percolate down to the masses.