Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Deadly witch hunts targeted by grassroots women's groups

Date:
September 4, 2012
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
Witch hunts are common and sometimes deadly in the tea plantations of Jalpaiguri, India. But a surprising source -- small groups of women who meet through a government loan program -- has achieved some success in preventing the longstanding practice, a sociologist found.

Basanti, shown here with children in her family, survived a witch hunt in India's tea plantations.
Credit: Photo by Soma Chaudhuri

Witch hunts are common and sometimes deadly in the tea plantations of Jalpaiguri, India. But a surprising source -- small groups of women who meet through a government loan program -- has achieved some success in preventing the longstanding practice, a Michigan State University sociologist found.

Related Articles


Soma Chaudhuri spent seven months studying witch hunts in her native India and discovered that the economic self-help groups have made it part of their agenda to defend their fellow plantation workers against the hunts.

"It's a grassroots movement and it's helping provide a voice to women who wouldn't otherwise have one," said Chaudhuri, assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice. "I can see the potential for this developing into a social movement, but it's not going to happen in a day because an entire culture needs to be changed."

Witch hunts, she explained, are fueled by the tribal workers' belief in the existence of witches and the desperate need of this poor, illiterate population to make sense of rampant diseases in villages with no doctors or medical facilities. There are some 84 million tribal people in India, representing about 8 percent of the country's population.

In 2003, at a tea plantation in Jalpaiguri, five women were tied up, tortured and killed after being falsely accused of witchcraft in the death of a male villager who had suffered from a stomach illness.

Chaudhuri interviewed the villagers at length and found that such attacks are often impulsive and that the "witch" is often killed immediately. Widespread alcoholism is also a factor, she found.

But the study also documents examples of the women's groups stopping potential attacks. In one case, a woman was accused of causing disease in livestock and an attack was planned. Members of the self-help groups gathered in a vigil around the woman's home and surrounded the accuser's home as well, stating their case to the accuser's wife. Eventually the wife intervened and her husband recanted and "begged for forgiveness."

Through the loan program, each woman is issued a low-interest, collateral-free "microcredit" loan of about 750 rupees ($18) to start her own business such as basket weaving, tailoring or selling chicken eggs. Participants meet in groups of about eight to 10 to support one another.

Chaudhuri said the loan program is run by nongovernmental activists who have been successful in encouraging the groups to look beyond the economic aspects and mobilize against domestic abuse, alcoholism and the practice of witch hunts.

Through the bonds of trust and friendship, group members have established the necessary social capital to collectively resist the deep-seated tradition of witch hunts, Chaudhuri said.

"Why would they go against something so risky, something that breaks tradition?" she said. "They do it because they believe in the ideals of the microcredit group -- in women's development, family development and gender equality."

The study, which Chaudhuri co-authored with Anuradha Chakravarty of the University of South Carolina, appears in Mobilization, an international research journal.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Anuradha Chakravarty, Soma Chaudhuri. Strategic Framing Work(s): How Microcredit Loans Facilitate Anti-Witch-Hunt Movements. Mobilization, 2012; 17 (2) [link]

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Deadly witch hunts targeted by grassroots women's groups." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120904111846.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2012, September 4). Deadly witch hunts targeted by grassroots women's groups. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120904111846.htm
Michigan State University. "Deadly witch hunts targeted by grassroots women's groups." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120904111846.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Science & Society News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Gas Production Cut on Earthquake Fears

Gas Production Cut on Earthquake Fears

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) The Dutch government has cut production at Europe&apos;s largest gas field in Groningen amid concerns over earthquakes which are damaging local churches. As Amy Pollock reports the decision - largely politically-motivated - could have big economic conseqeunces. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Republicans Propose Bill That Would Kill Net Neutrality

Republicans Propose Bill That Would Kill Net Neutrality

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) The bill proposed by Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn would roll back the existing and any similar future net neutrality rules from the FCC. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obamacare's Strange New Supreme Court Case

Obamacare's Strange New Supreme Court Case

Newsy (Mar. 4, 2015) President Obama&apos;s healthcare law is facing its second Supreme Court challenge, and it hinges on a single sentence. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prince William Calls for Unified Effort Against Illegal Wildlife Trade

Prince William Calls for Unified Effort Against Illegal Wildlife Trade

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Mar. 4, 2015) Britain&apos;s Prince William pledges to unite against illegal wildlife trade on the final day of his visit to China. Rough cut - no reporter narration Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins