Social activist Birubala Rabha, who hails from Assam's Goalpara district, has been honoured with Padma Shri for her efforts in fighting against witch-hunting in the state.
"I am very happy with the honour. I have faced many struggles and even threats to my life for the work I have been doing… The recognition is the blessing of those who have supported us," said Rabha.
Rabha was a victim of the practice herself as she was called a witch and blamed by fellow villagers for deaths of neighbours. She took it upon herself to raise her voice against it and has since saved dozens of lives. She has spread awareness for ending witch-hunting.
"My life and work are dedicated to others. The journey has been arduous, but I am not going to rest on my laurels and stop the mission which we have taken up," she said.
Notably, Rabha's work prompted the passage of the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Act in 2015.
Witch-hunting is a form of superstition wherein women usually are blamed for deaths, illnesses, financial troubles, or even crop damage and targeted by relatives, neighbours, or fellow villagers. Such women are often ex-communicated, forced to leave villages, tortured by kangaroo courts, and in many cases killed. The real motives of such killings are often property disputes and ego clashes.
According to the Assam government figures, between 2011 and 2019, 107 people were killed across Assam in witch-hunting incidents. The latest such incident was reported in October when a 50-year-old widow and a 28-year-old man were killed in Karbi Anglong district.