EDITORIAL: Long way to go

Fighting this illegal and abominable practice is not just the duty of government; NGOs also should come up and act against the social scourge

Whatever the laws may have been made to punish people who beat up or mistreat any woman alleging that she is a witch, or whatever occasional campaigns may have been mounted from governmental and non-governmental organizations on this count, such victimization goes on, as is indicated by news reports to that effect from time to time. The latest news of a woman thrashed black and blue in Rajpur Municipality of Rautahat on the night of December 23 on the allegation that she practices witchcraft is just one of several such cases brought to light in recent months. If the number of such unreported cases is added, the spread of this illegal and abominable practice becomes wider than what has been visible.

The 42-year-old victim was critically wounded as she received injuries on various body parts, including a deep cut on the head, and is receiving treatment at the district hospital at Gaur. She was accused of practicing witchcraft after some people, including children, in the neighbourhood fell sick and hospitalized and the shamans who were consulted pointed a finger of guilt of witchcraft at the woman. Her husband is reported to be preparing to file a case at the district police office against the cruelty inflicted on his wife. But that is another matter. Fighting this illegal and abominable practice is not just the duty of the government. The citizens and the various non-governmental organizations should also come up and act against this practice immediately, rather than look on while the cruelties go on.

The ongoing practice of witch-hunting particularly in the village areas despite all the efforts made to check it shows that much more still needs to be done in this direction to end the scourge altogether. Mere legislation is not enough. Its strict enforcement is equally important. The task of educating the people about the imaginary idea of the existence of witches and the evils of witch-hunting is still in its infancy in the country. This task of education is indeed extremely difficult. This fact should make the determination of the State, the various organizations concerned and the citizens at large to fight this evil even stronger. On all these counts, the country’s efforts have proved quite inadequate. Strict enforcement of the law should be ensured, and this would go a long way towards reducing the practice of witch-hunting. This scourge exists in the villages, even more so in the villages of the Tarai, which easily receive such influences from across the border. Therefore, in those areas the corrective efforts should be concentrated. To supplement this, public education campaigns should be launched not just on some special occasions but continually and the languages in which the desired messages are to be imparted should also be in local languages, apart from Nepali, to make the messages more effective. There is a clear need of reaching out to all the societies and launching effective awareness campaigns.

Work on all priorities

Despite prioritising four major working areas—road repair, building code implementation, maintenance of greenery and garbage management—around three months ago, the Kathmandu Metropolitan City is currently focusing only on road repair. The metropolis argues that it has made road repair its top priority to control dust pollution. The KMC says it will start working on other areas “soon”. While KMC’s focus on road repair is commendable, it cannot take a lackadaisical approach about building code implementation, greenery maintenance and garbage management. These are equally important aspects to make the Capital city better and beautiful.  The KMC which has got new leadership after a gap of around two decades following the local level elections earlier this year has been facing criticism for failing to execute its duties properly.

Garbage management is one of the areas where the KMC has to work hard. KMC is yet to find a durable solution to Kathmandu’s garbage management. Frequent obstructions by locals at the Okharpauwa dumping site have created problems for the KMC. Similarly, the KMC’s plan to plant trees on both sides of the roads, traffic islands and riverbanks has failed to take off. The metropolis needs to put extra effort to build green parks and maintain greenery. The metropolis should also strictly enforce building code to check haphazard construction.