India: The Prevalence of Witches

A lot more than just legislation is needed to curb the frequent incidents of witch-hunting in Odisha. 

The infamous medieval treatise on witch-hunting, the Malleus Maleficarum (1486), speaks in the authoritative voice of a book of law —  it lays down the rules with which the process of ‘justice’, involving the identification, prosecution and systematic elimination of witches (almost always women), is to be conducted.

The methodology it codified does not really sound so medieval when considered in the context of contemporary Indian reality. Here, the common people’s continuing lack of access to the formal justice system in remote and not-so-remote areas means that any powerful person can mimic the voice of law to serve his interests, as the author of Malleus Maleficarum did. 

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