Witch-Hunting in India with Dr Govind Kelkar

Witch-Hunting in India with Dr. Govind Kelkar Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast

This conversation is our podcast’s first inquiry about witch hunting in the nation of India. Our guest, Govind Kelkar, holds a PhD in Political Economy of China and is Professor and Executive Director for GenDev Centre for Research and Innovation in India. She has authored 16 books and numerous scholarly publications. This episode introduces us to the impact of witch-hunting on indigenous societies, women, and about variations between matrilineal and patrilineal cultures within the broader patriarchy in India.We ask: Why do we witch hunt? How do we witch hunt? How do we stop hunting witches? International Alliance to End Witch HuntsCulture, Capital and Witch Hunts in Assam, by Govind Kelkar & Aparajita SharmaCulture, Capital, and Witch Hunts in Meghalaya and NagalandPurchase a Witch Trial White Rose Memorial ButtonSupport Us! Sign up as a Super Listener!End Witch Hunts Movement Thou Shalt Not Suffer Podcast Book StoreSupport Us! Buy Witch Trial Merch!Support Us! Buy Podcast Merch!Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.WebsiteTwitterFacebookInstagramPinterestLinkedInYouTubeTikTokSupport the show

Show Notes

This conversation is our podcast’s first inquiry about witch hunting in the nation of India. Our guest, Govind Kelkar, holds a PhD in Political Economy of China and is Professor and Executive Director for GenDev Centre for Research and Innovation in India. She has authored 16 books and numerous scholarly publications. This episode introduces us to the impact of witch-hunting on indigenous societies, women, and about variations between matrilineal and patrilineal cultures within the broader patriarchy in India.

We ask: Why do we witch hunt? How do we witch hunt? How do we stop hunting witches? 

International Alliance to End Witch Hunts

Culture, Capital and Witch Hunts in Assam, by Govind Kelkar & Aparajita Sharma

Culture, Capital, and Witch Hunts in Meghalaya and Nagaland

Purchase a Witch Trial White Rose Memorial Button

Support Us! Sign up as a Super Listener!

End Witch Hunts Movement 

Thou Shalt Not Suffer Podcast Book Store

Support Us! Buy Witch Trial Merch!

Support Us! Buy Podcast Merch!

Join us on Discord to share your ideas and feedback.










[00:00:20] Josh Hutchinson: Hi, and welcome to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Josh Hutchinson.
[00:00:27] Sarah Jack: And I'm Sarah Jack.
[00:00:29] Josh Hutchinson: We are so excited to bring you this interview with Dr. Govind Kelkar about witch hunting in India. This is our first time visiting that country on the podcast, and we're going to learn about some of the concepts and different occult roles that are available either by choice or by other people's labeling. It's not just about witches and sorcerers, there are also healers and diviners, and we learn about tiger people and snake keepers and all kinds of interesting stuff.
[00:01:23] Sarah Jack: A lot of what we learned today comes out of the academic study that she did on communities in two northeast Indian states.
[00:01:32] Josh Hutchinson: She focused on indigenous communities and studied both matrilineal and patrilineal cultures. 
[00:01:43] Sarah Jack: Enjoy this discussion today and also take time to pull this study up to read it for yourself. We will have this specific research linked in our show notes, and you need to read it as a follow up.
[00:02:01] Josh Hutchinson: Yes, we hear straight from an expert who's been working in this field of study in India for 25 years and has a lot of field experience, as well as professorial experience. Just done a lot of hands-on research in communities that are affected by witch hunting.
And another important aspect that we discuss with Dr. Kelkar is how to go about ending witch hunting in India. So she talks about the roles of healthcare and education and things like that to help alleviate the crisis. 
[00:02:58] Sarah Jack: Dr. Govind Kelkar holds a PhD in political economy of China. She's a professor and executive director for GenDev Center for Research and Innovation in India. She has authored 16 books and numerous scholarly publications. She has recently completed two co-authored studies: "Culture, Capital, and Witch Hunts in Assam" and "Witch Hunts, Culture, Patriarchy, and Structural Transformation." She has previously taught at Delhi University, the Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, and the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, Thailand. There she founded the graduate program in gender development studies and also the Gender, Technology, and Development Journal, published by Sage and now by Routledge, India.
[00:03:47] Josh Hutchinson: So this is our first time for our listeners to visit India. What should our listeners know about the situation with witch hunting in India?
[00:03:59] Govind Kelkar: There is a general kind of ignorance about the witches. Once in a while, the article, a newspaper article appears, and from particular indigenous areas, and this practice does exist in rural areas also, but it generally it is ignored. Oh, this is their practice. So othering of the problem is one thing, and second is that it is forgotten, as if it doesn't exist. So this is generally kind of thing. And whenever there is a presentation I have made in Council for Social Development, where I'm affiliated, then or any other organization and they think, oh, this is not a general problem, this is only confined to indigenous people, which is very painful. We have quite a sizeable number of indigenous people, but it is very painful to know this kind of attitude.
And the so-called kind of is considered uneducated people living in forest and they are not uneducated by any means. Those who consider this kind of problem are uneducated, really, about their own society. I have been part of the women's movement and feminist movement in India, and we also did not take into consideration for quite late into the violence against women.
And it still, it is not the mainstream of discussion in the violence against women. I have a bit of critique of our feminist movement also. Now, there are a couple of filmmakers and people who talk about it, but very few.
[00:05:38] Sarah Jack: Can you give us a definition of a witch in the context that happens in India or tell us how a witch should be defined to understand who's getting attacked?
[00:05:53] Govind Kelkar: I would define the witch, which we discuss this, and when we wrote the book I have a co-authored book, as I was telling you, published in 2020 by Cambridge University Press. And that is one thing that I thought that it would be. One day we will ask the question that, who do you consider the witch?
A very brief and crisp definition is a woman or a man, sometime it is men also, but supernatural powers who cause harm to their own or to her community people. So it is not that she causes harm to other people, but within, to her extended family, to her close family, to her community. Somebody falls sick, somebody has the crop loss, untimely rain, which destructive, all these kind of considered a kind of something which is caused by the witch, with the exception of Covid, which happened. There was a large number of people who were denounced as or branded as witches during that period. But Covid was not considered as a witch phenomena, maybe because it came as a tsunami or it has came a kind of a, or affected everybody. So that is the reason that if it has happened in certain parts, then probably this would've been also one reason.
[00:07:15] Sarah Jack: Yeah.
[00:07:17] Josh Hutchinson: And so the allegations, they're usually coming from people who are close, either kin or neighbors?
[00:07:25] Govind Kelkar: Unfortunately, very close. It would be husband's brother, his nephews. In most cases they would be the people. Sometime it is close neighbors extended who are likely to get hold of some property by extension the woman has. And normally these would be unsupported women, either where the husband is weak, either physically has some ailments, or he's not there, or the sons are working.
It's very patriarchal society, okay, with the exception of Meghalaya. So either sons are away and they visit only once in 6 years or once in 12 years. And then the woman would be harassed by the husband's nephews, which are, who are her nephews, because they will get that property.
The question one raises what property it has, I think even a kind of tattered house for utensils, whatever in that context, the property there, they will get hold of that. So if the woman is driven out or killed, then this would be the case. Sometime neighbors also do, if there is a child dies, then probably the neighbors also would join together.
I recently visited about three months ago, I was in the field in a state of Tripura, and I went to see a case, which has happened only two weeks ago where a woman was buried alive and her husband and seven others, close relations of the husband, they were party to it. And I was surprised. I was in the village. I did not know before that where the husband was also party to it. So I asked the mother-in-law, I said, who are the people who did it? And she said people in the village, close relatives. I said, where is the husband? Because the son who was eight year old, he was wearing those funeral kind of clothes, white clothes, not sleeping on the cot, but sleeping on the mat. So he was carrying that to sit on that so that he did not sit either on the ground or on something else. So I said why this little boy is doing this white clothes and all this. And they said, oh, because it is our custom.
But I said, where is the father? Says that he has gone to market, but actually he was in the police custody. They were arrested. So even this kind of incident how the people are saved or they lose face in telling the outsiders.
[00:10:00] Josh Hutchinson: Are the perpetrators often arrested?
[00:10:04] Govind Kelkar: Wherever there is a law or the person is killed. The accusations or branding as a witch, that there is no arrest for that, even when the law is there, which is very unfortunate. She's harassed for months. She is driven out. Only when she's killed, then there would be arrest. So it is the case of the murder then. They see that. 
So there is the Indian penal code. In seven states of India, we have the law against witch hunts, but they're also really the, they call it prevention witch hunts kind of thing. But police acts only when the woman is killed. Being driven out, being harassed, being branded as a witch, there is a whole process goes on for quite some time before she's killed. Nothing happens during that period. Although they are supposed to do that legally. 
[00:10:57] Josh Hutchinson: So it sounds like authorities could step in before it gets to the point of murder, but they're not doing that.
[00:11:06] Govind Kelkar: Yes, if you see the laws of these kind of where the state has been passed, highest number is in the state of Jharkhand and then followed by Assam. These are the, we call them states, what is called the provinces in the earlier kind of thing. And then it is in Mizoram, and I have done work in all three these areas. And one finds that the law is very, Mizoram doesn't have any law. Assam has these laws recently passed. And they're really toothless, very lame laws kind of thing, including in a ridiculous, the first law that was passed in 2005 or something, it was two thousand fine for this kind of thing. 
So court treats this as a part of the belief system. They say it was done as a kind of under the influence of the belief, although legally it is, this is not so in the law, but this is the treatment of the code. Police is generally from this caste society. And even when they are part some indigenous people are there, they also get influenced because they are in a smaller number. They don't raise the voice. And then also you see that this is treated as the kind of part of the belief system. This crime is not treated as seriously as the other crimes would be treated. So harassment, although they say for some laws that I recently passed, like in case of Orissa State harassment is part of the law, but it is not implemented.
Nobody reports about it. They don't go to the village. They don't know. The woman also doesn't know that she has to go to the court because she finds court very useful. First thing, there is a general fear. You don't know the language that lot of women have not familiar with Hindi or English, which is the language of the law. And the result is that they are not taken serious. They don't have the confidence to go also, that is the, to go with the lawyer or to the police. So there is a lot of gap between law and the what actual happens in the practice.
[00:13:18] Sarah Jack: Can you tell us how the gender systems are diverse?
[00:13:23] Govind Kelkar: In indigenous areas, we have two kind of varieties by and large, two major kind of thing. One is the matrilineal state, which is the, where the, it is not matriarchy, but it is matriliny in terms of the lineage, property rights that the land rights, they are with the women, they are even spiritual heads, in terms of making decisions in some community. Within the particular state, also, there are communities. So somewhere they are spiritual heads. So for example, the Khasi society, they are the spiritual heads, but not in Garo.
But they are not there in the decision making. All the decision is made in these matrilineal systems by men. So not a single woman would be there in the, either in the local body, which is called durbar, village level or onwards till the state level. So political matters and decision making, these are considered as the male role. And the male preserver a male domain. And the women's domain would be cooking, cleaning, agricultural work, managing the household, providing for the family, taking care of children, and also property management. Youngest daughter inherits the property. Whether it is a management or it is the ownership, in both cases, the youngest daughter would get it. So this is one system of the matriliny. 
Then the rest of the societies, by and large, are patriarchal, where it happens. In the patriarchal, women don't own any land. There is total economic independence on men. They don't make any decisions. They, what else would be of course, cooking, cleaning, all that kind of division of labor, gender, division of labor, which is by and large universal kind of thing, except some changes happening now that is there in these patriarchal societies.
And in these societies also, there is a kind of very high level of brutalization of women, unlike in the matrilineal society. But there is one thing that needs to be really noted that even in this matrilineal society, there is a movement of men for taking control of the property. Somewhere they have succeeded also. For example, in case of Nagaland, nokma, which was the village head, that was the position, N O K M A, nokma was the title of the village head, that these village heads were women.
And the, when she got married, then the husband would assist her. So he would be called traditionally as nokma's husband, but now it is the other way. As soon as the nokma gets married, the entire kind of responsibilities and authorities, powers, they are taken over by the husband, and he goes around, and he makes the decisions, and nobody even knows really, except the village itself, that the nokma is the woman, not the man, only that kind of village. I was surprised. I was three days in this village. Third day I came to know that woman was the nokma, and I was interviewing with the husband as the nokma, he was introduced. And this was the general pattern. This is happening in Garo society, particularly, which are the matrilineal.
In Khasi society, you find that there is a movement of the men. There are two organizations like that. One organization called the equal rights of property division that to boys and girls, they should inherit both. And second is saying that no, we should follow what is happening in the rest of India. We are not progressive. We are backward. Progressive means here, not in terms of ideology and ideas, economic development, but they use the word progressive. So we are not economically developed or so-called progressive, because women are ruling here. 
These are the kind of gender systems, the kind of, but even in matrilineal kind of thing, what is important? No decision making powers with women except when a woman is involved kind of thing. But even then, within that, there is a kind of less number of cases, a woman being denounced as witches or brutalized, that kind of thing. Once or twice a case happens, there is actually there more attack on men. This is surprising.
There, which I have found that men are considered as a kind of doing the, if we same take the definition of the witch, which I told you that they are causing harm to others as the thlen keepers. Thlen is the biggest snakes. So that is they worship the kind of this big snake, giant snake, or we can call it dragon, but they call it the serpent.
So this serpent, which is known as thlen, the household known as the thlen keeper, and thlen keeper are the people if you make money, all of a sudden. That's why I consider capitalism also responsible. So suppose you are working outside in Delhi and you send remittances and you have a good house and you don't associate so much with your community, then probably there would be a initially no interaction with you or with your family, because it's supposed to be, if you go there, then your blood would be sucked. Nobody knows kind of thing. And they say, oh, the thlen changes the shape, sometime he is as as a string of a thread, so nobody sees it, but he is supposed to subsist on human blood. The saying goes like this, that even this family employs some men to collect the blood from the fingernails. So the distrust is there that if any kind of unknown person comes to the village, he's threatened with his life. There have been some cases, and particularly young boys have been killed. I think about two years ago, five young boys were killed because of that. Three in one case and two in one case.
[00:19:39] Josh Hutchinson: And that's because they were outsiders?
[00:19:43] Govind Kelkar: They were outsiders. They were having some free time and they wanted to go around and they did not tell the families and they were outsiders. So they were.
[00:19:52] Josh Hutchinson: Okay. And you mentioned that accumulating wealth causes suspicion, as well?
[00:20:00] Govind Kelkar: That's precisely the kind of thing. This is happens in both matrilineal and patriarchal societies that if you are rich and the rich, better off, economically, much better off than the rest of kind of thing, than rest of the household, then it is considered that you have some mystical powers. And then through a, those kind of exploitative means that you have become rich. So I visited one area in matrilineal society where the ojha or the healer was killed, the ojha or shaman, why the shaman was killed, and by his own nephews, because the nephews kept asking him, why don't you teach me how you have become rich?
He didn't say clearly. He said, of course, I just treat others and I don't do anything. He said no, you must have some mantras, some kind of powers you must have. So you have become rich. He has much better house than the cousins have, or the brother's sons have. And then he couldn't give them anything because probably there were not. And one night, 11 in the night they came, this is about a year old story and Garo Hills in the matrilineal society. And these three brother Sons they came, nephews. And these nephews just beheaded him.
[00:21:22] Josh Hutchinson: For the listeners, I just want to let everyone know we recently read your study titled Culture, Capital, and Witch Hunts in Meghalaya and Nagaland. We'll put a link to it in the show description so people can see what we're talking about.
 The ojha or shaman that you spoke of, they also are involved themselves in finding witches?
[00:21:50] Govind Kelkar: That has been their role that when something happens, the villagers go to ojha to the shaman. They have different names. Sometime they are kabiraj, that is the healer and the one who treats others some. So because the person gets sick, then they go there also. Now he first probably tries to find out what is the diseases has caused kind of thing. And then he finds out, oh, it is a difficult disease if in case there is fever, persisting fever, like typhoid or something. Then he tries to really tell them that somebody has caused this problem. Now he doesn't name the person. But he indicates enough that person is that direction, third house from that house.
And there is a general kind of process. So that who would be the kind of person who would be identified? So without even naming, precisely naming the person, the whole village or that part of the village knows who is going to be affected. So this is the identification. Now, these ojhas, after where the law has been passed, these ojhas have now underground practice.
So they consult each other. Almost every village has a ojha. But now two, three villages would have one ojha, because the practice is little bit on decline. And they also is scared of the legal system, because the system of ojha is illegal in the states where the law has been passed. In Nagaland and Meghalaya, there is no law.
So they are the thlen keepers, and I have given some photographs also, and they're a ritual kind of thing. And where they put a hot, iron rod in the bubbling, in the bottle. And if the bubbles come up, they think it is the witch kind of thing. So I made a video out of this and he allowed that. He says, okay, because there is no law, he was not think that this can be at one point illegal, but it's not illegal. So then he will find out who's the thlen keeper, which household has the thlen? And if the household is very powerful, somebody in the government or somebody in this, then they leave that household. Otherwise somebody from that household would be affected and um, less killing in that household, because that generally these households are powerful but no interaction. It is the communitarian way of life, but they are ostracized, that household. So they are not invited for any ceremonies, any village functions.
And you live there or they are asked also in some parts that you please leave the village, if they are very poor, similar kind of thing. So they don't have the power really to report to the police or report to do something. And also when you are socially boycotted, there is no kind of action that you will report to the police also for that.
So that kind of, you live in a society which is ostracized. Their children also would carry that. So the, in the school, when the children goes, I interviewed one woman who has said that how she was really harassed while she was in the school, because the little girl, that household was known as the thlen keeper household. And oh, it was declared by the ojha. 
And what did the system goes that you cut a piece of hair, girls have long hair, or you cut a piece of cloth that's a scarf, and this is, they say, then it offered to the serpent, it turns into blood and the serpent drinks, that kind of thing. So nobody's going to sit next to you, thinking that you might cut little piece from the flowing hair and the long hair, or you, or from the scarf, you can cut it kind of thing, and then you would be affected, you would die as a result of that. So total kind of boycott or, eh, total lack of interaction or isolation.
[00:25:53] Josh Hutchinson: Nobody feels safe interacting with that person or being close to that person?
[00:25:58] Govind Kelkar: That's right.
[00:25:59] Sarah Jack: It sounds like the thlen keeper families for generations, they would be viewed as the thlen keepers.
[00:26:14] Govind Kelkar: The only way that unless they made it so much in the system, because from, I know two thlen keepers family where one woman has married a UN official. So she definitely upgraded one. Her sister was a police officer. I met out of seven, only two. So that family could survive, but no interaction. Villagers would not interact with them. But they were able to live, they were not driven out. 
And the other family I know who was a professor in Delhi. The girls are the supporters of the family. So she was professor and she also has written about it. So this is the only way out, that you made it in the system. Then you can really get rid of this. Then you will get married, not in your community and some other community out of, I mean it would be the so-called self-arranged or love marriage. It'll not be in the traditional system, the village or the surrounding villages.
[00:27:17] Josh Hutchinson: How does someone become an ojha?
[00:27:21] Govind Kelkar: One way is to dream. Somebody getting a dream that is and in different ways, in different kind of things. So one way was the dream that you, and in lot of cases it is from father to son that is the kind of practice. He learn. 
Interestingly I met an ojha, who was, whose picture also I have given and who was very frank in discussing this kind of thing. He was a truck driver earlier, and he tried to become ojha. And I told him, how did you become? And he said he was being treated and nothing was working. That ojha was not. So he thought he would practice. And so that's how that he learned. And he, I said, how much time you took to become ojha, and he said about one and a half year.
So it is also learning from others. Sometime you become ojha, they have the kind of assistant also. Initially you watch, you help the kind of thing. You heat the fire, you put the fire on, and you boil the water. And so that is how you learn. And then you set up your own practice. Sometime dream, dream is very convenient. They strongly believe it. And since I'm a nonbeliever, so I say it's very convenient, but they believe that they had the dream and this kind of thing, and this dream can be sometime like that you dreamt about a word entering into your body or some other objects entering your body, and that is seen as this is a kind of God's wish that you become a healer kind of thing, that you have become the treating others as your duty to the community.
[00:29:05] Josh Hutchinson: And then how does someone get associated with keeping the serpent?
[00:29:11] Govind Kelkar: Keeping the serpent. Nobody has seen it. It is normally the rich families. I'm using their term as the rich, better house, children going outside, better clothes, acquiring car. In such a way that you are called within your community as much economically better off, much better off than others.
And then they think that it is the thlen worshipers, they are known as the thlen worshipers. That serpent must have blessed them. And thlen lives on the human blood as I explained earlier. So that's why people don't go to the house. But they, in most cases, they are not driven out, because of their economic power.
[00:29:54] Josh Hutchinson: Speaking about the economics, you talked in the study about the emergence of the accumulative economics, where before it was largely communal economics, and what impact is that having on witch hunting?
[00:30:16] Govind Kelkar: Either we call it market forces or we call it accumulative society, or we call it a capitalist society. So this is one of the thing, so the accumulating household, that means who are in their perception accumulating household. And really they are become the, they are much better off than the rest of them. There is a mystical belief that how they have acquired the wealth and we have not acquired? Or for example, if I fields and then that it would be considered how your fields are fertile? I have also fields, I'm also working, but my fields do not produce as much as your fields produce, so there must be the kind of some kind of mystical means. So this thlen is considered that you must be worshiping, thlen must have blessed you. The thlen is like a kind of god in this sense, the spirit, and that that has blessed you and that's why you have become like this. So that is one thing in Meghalaya, the matrilineal state.
The other society, Nagaland, this is the tiger. The human takes the form of the tiger, and they go on robbing others. And that is very kind of a system has become like that. They have council of tigers, tiger men, and nobody can blame them for this kind of tiger men, because they are not human when they attack them, when they rob others.
The first thing they do it in the night, and it is supposed to be that these are the tigers who are doing it. Tiger men, they call it tiger men who are doing it. And it is really not those our neighbors who are doing it. Yeah. Or the villagers, our villagers are not doing this is the tiger spreads that make them. So no reporting against them, no appeal against them. They take anybody's cow, anybody's pig, anybody's chicken, and they subsist on that. And of course this is a scot-free. 
They also molest women, and that was very meekly discussed in a kind of that they go in the forest where there is a drinking, there is a feasting because somebody has, who has got this by other tigers within the village, outside the village. And there would be the, a woman who is collecting, gathering things from the forest, she would be normally subject to their attacks. The sexual attacks I'm talking about.
[00:32:45] Josh Hutchinson: Yes. 
[00:32:46] Govind Kelkar: The tiger possessors, they are not really driven out of the village, because they are considered tiger. And it goes like that tiger and humans are brothers. On the one hand that even if the real tiger comes, animal, they would not kill that tiger because that is considered as the brother has come, and of course there are studies also sometime for random at the Burmese border, Burma, and Mizoram border. There are some people who in order to terrorize I was in one interview was I was told that there is a random shooting of the human beings also. So that it would be the, and of course there is also that human flesh eating or cannibalism that was also reported. From earlier period of headhunting, it emerges from there, but now they don't talk about that much, but they say that tigers have this urge to eat raw meat. That is the time that they go on robbing others. 
I met a tiger woman also and a tiger man, and they discussed their kind of thing. Woman has retired from the government service, and I was surprised all her life from the childhood till now she was being blamed as the tiger woman. Tiger girl, tiger woman. And when I had a dinner with her, and I asked her that, how did she herself probably started, because I didn't have the courage to ask whether you were branded as a tiger woman, but probably she could know that why I was meeting her all of a sudden coming from Delhi.
She said that she had preferred to work in the night. And that she was sleepy during day in the school. And as a result of being sleepy, she was not able to pay more attention or the focus attention or she will look like this here and there. That was also his, and they said that because she's active in the night, she's a tiger girl. And this tiger girl, she kept studying, but they kept saying that kind of thing. And of course you don't say the girl, you would say that she's a tiger girl, but when she becomes a woman, she starts kind of thing. You don't start talking to her as that. Are you a tiger woman or not? So everyone talks about you, but nobody says things on your face.
She gave some information to her brother-in-law, who was in the deputy inspector general of police, who were looking in that area. She gave some information because she happened to gather some forest produce, and her brother-in-law, in fact, informed me that I have a sister-in-law who's a tiger woman. Would you like to meet her? I met this retired police officer. That's how I met her. So even the brother-in-law confirmed that she was, and a police officer, highest ranking police officer in the state, confirmed that she's a tiger woman. 
I asked him, where are the other tiger men that you are talking about? And he said they are in the lot in the police force, a lot in the army. So I was surprised to see that, how matter of fact, he, of course, he gave me very frank interview that I was doing the research that he understood well. But I was also surprised to know that how this system is prevalent, belief that they change the form in the night. They become tigers, these human beings, and then go and take resources from people.
[00:36:19] Sarah Jack: These interviews are so important. The information that you gather firsthand from the individuals seems very important.
[00:36:31] Govind Kelkar: Thank you. I also thought, because I have been associated with the indigenous studies for, I don't know, over two decades and that time I studied in Central India and these two states, Jharkhand and all this, this system was not there. So this is also diversity kind of thing. The tiger were not there. Witches were there, outright witches. And killing them was only to getting rid of them. And you ask them that, what is the number of the witches would be there. And they would say that their, every village would have two or three witches, women. And they are either old, most of them are old. Sometime you do find young women also, but they would be unsupported, sometimes single, sometime unsupported and sometime they assert their right. I got a call, I think last year a woman ward member, ward is the panchayat, which is the local village kind of thing.
She's a considered important person to deal with the local affairs. So a woman was a ward member, and she was very effective, and she was told you step down, otherwise we'll call you a witch, and we will treat you like that. And her husband was there, but he could not protest. And the child was also young. Two daughters, one son. So it is the normal family, but it was not by single, by any means kind of thing. The single women now are supportless women. Everybody was there, but because she was asserting her right? So patriarchy is another factor. You should be where you society has kept tradition, has kept you subordinate to men, economically dependent on men, and do your kind of work that has been assigned to them, household. Don't attempt to do things. So that is also factor besides capital, besides accumulation, these things are also there.
[00:38:32] Josh Hutchinson: And how do you make changes to improve the situation for women?
[00:38:39] Govind Kelkar: Very important question there. The government of India recently in the last two, three years, have recognized three women for fighting the witch system. They were denounced as witches and one in central India in Jharkhand state, one in Assam, and one in Mizoram. They were labeled and they fought or they fought this kind of thing.
So government gave them a kind of award called Padma Shri, so I interviewed this Padma Shri woman I said, how you have become so important. You were able to fight the system. You didn't care. One point was that, of course, it was not easy fighting the system, was not easy. 
What I gather from that discussion that you have raised, that women's agency is very important. Capacities and agency is very important. I don't care if you call me a kind of tiger woman or you call me a witch. Okay. So that becomes very important capacity of the household. If of course, if household is supportive kind of thing. In one case, this woman, her husband has denounced her as witch. She took the support from other women who were, some organizations have come, NGO support, and she left the house and she went there because that's how she was able to survive. Supportive structures within an outside community is very important. That is one is strategy is important. 
Second is law is also important. If you have, wherever there is a law, these ojhas and shamans, they are no longer as active as they used to be. They are underground. They are working very stealthily, but they are not they would be arrested if they know that they are ojha. Then particularly if there is witch killing case, then ojha also would be arrested because he would be the person who has identified. So he's scared for that. So law is important, but law by itself is not enough. Law has to be strict, more kind of punitive and punishment for this action, and punishment has to be not only in terms of when she's killed, but punishment when she's branded, because that is a state that would be there. So the law has to look all kind of things. 
A general neglect of the indigenous people I also feel in the legal system. Oh, this is their part of the belief. And some people also, I also feel felt a bit of resistance and it is state like Meghalaya. They say you are, this is the part of our sacred culture. So indigeneity or kind of identity movement, which is coming, that needs to be really a cushion that in, your identity as a group, as a community is important, but this identity has to be the human rights respecting culture.
So the cultures have to be really, and there is no harm in taking good aspect of the culture from any other part. There has to be good kind of aspect of culture, because I give them example of India where the sati system was there. I don't know if you're familiar with sati. Sati was the, S A T I, sati was the system where the woman was burnt alive with the death of the husband, which was outlawed. And this was considered as a part of the Indian culture. So I gave them that example that how these things have been eliminated. Treatment of the women or burning of women in Europe, witches thing. So this so that, so this is the second law has to be effective by capacity building of women and it has to be Good punitive with good punitive measures. It doesn't have to be larger sphere of the sake of it has to be implemented. Third has to be really the case, which is more important, strike at the belief system. So throughout the campaign, the discussion, research-based advocacy would be important against this kind of practice. So women's agency, effective legal measures. Third would be really the good kind of research based advocacy at the community level, advocacy at the state level, because we normally think everything you do to the government, it is solved. No, here the community is also involved. 
So we are not attacking the cultures, but we are attacking some aspect of the, I have a lot of respect for the indigenous people's culture in their communitarian way of life, in their conservation of the resources, water conservation, forest management, the very kind of good practices. But along with good practice, you have unfortunately this practice. So that is important that somehow it is not a attack on their culture. It is only one part of the culture that needs change like untouchability cast system in India that needs to be changed. Whatever the good kind of part would be of the Indian culture. That would be the one of the things. Or like racial situation in the US or treatment of the indigenous people. So in any society, we have these kind of belief features and they need to be changed. So that is one thing that repeated kind of dialogue with the indigenous people with their community, that has to continue and till they take their in their own hands so that, because there are some women group that has come, there are some individuals, one or two organizations. And film would be a good source for this.
And most important was a woman who was a kind of awardee, this Padma Shri awardee, in Jharkhand, whose husband has denounced her as a kind of witch. She said the proof is very important, and in the European history also, if you see that proof was required. Show me how I have caused harm. So it is not really that I did something to make somebody sick. There has been concrete evidence, concrete proof. So once if the judicial system is start asking for the proof or the legal system start asking for the proof, the community asking for the proof, because first the cases go to community before they go to the court, then the proof is very important. If I am witch, then show me what I have done to your child, kind of thing. 
 Healthcare is also considered, good healthcare. So these are the five strategies that I think would be useful to address this kind of system, because there has been a PhD work on somebody did a research on Chhattisgarh one state, and there used to be in the 19th century cholera witches, because people were dying of cholera, children were dying of cholera. And that time it was that they were called as a cholera witches. That means that somebody has caused some kind of poison the child through some means, and she was known as the cholera witches. Not much earlier, not now. This brand of cholera witches completely disappeared after this kind of became that what you need on the dehydration, rehydration kind of thing in order to avoid the cholera. And you could survive. 
So I think decentralized, effective healthcare also would be important. So then people won't go to ojha. These states are also literate states but out of belief, they will not go to a doctor, they'll go to ojha for treatment. So if you go to fever, so that, that is also needs to be changed. And I think this will be changed through the community dialogue.
[00:46:32] Sarah Jack: I have a question. How does the education of children work in these communities?
[00:46:42] Govind Kelkar: Very educated, very articulate in English, very articulate in other subjects. But there was a young man who was recently for me, local researcher. And he was studying in very elite College of Delhi. I asked him, because he was my local, I said, do you believe in the witch system? He said, not in Delhi, but when I go back home, I believe. I said, how do you believe? He says, I'm fearful that something might happen to me, somebody might cause something. I was so surprised. Then I said, this is the study that is not there in that kind of thing, but hopefully soon you will be able. I'm writing that study. So I was surprised, because I thought a person who is comes very articulate, very knows things, and he is acting as my research assistant, so we have discussed the thing. But he also said that while I'm Delhi, I don't believe in, that's nothing would happen to me, but back home, something, somebody might do something.
So how this kind of in socialization kind of thing, socialization does internalization also, we we internalize many things without knowing, and there nothing as education that attacks our internalization. It is the other way, in fact. If we are questioned for something, then we become very defensive. So that is one of the things that education is not, that's why I didn't refer to education. 86. 6% and 90% people are educated. Much better kind of educational figures than you have in the other parts of India. But they have these practices. 
And there is nothing in our textbooks. And sometime media, it seems very popular in terms of television shows talking about how the witches are there and how would this source of kind of so-called entertainment their feet are towards the backside and upside down feet and they don't touch the ground. All these kind of promoted as a part of the entertainment, but they enter our mind for this. So they further reinforce the belief system. 
So in this young man, then I gave him the assignment that he interviewed about 21 young people, youth, and out of 21, and they were all in the college and the doing the BA. Out of 21, only one did not believe in the witch system. Others, including he himself, everyone believed in the witch practice. So this is the education that is the role, how we can see that. Probably education is important, but what kind of education we are, we question that.
These things should be included in the textbooks, in the primary school itself kind of thing. Then education works. That definitely education works. This is our attempt, but I don't know when we will be able to effectively address this. That in the education really it should be kind of part of the thing and that need to be addressed. But we are going through a difficult phase in terms of with our political system. So let's hope that someday, change would come. That kind of education is very important that with the real education, I would think and parents also need to be educated probably. We stop saying that. Oh, stop crying. Otherwise the witch would come and take you. Huh? So that also happens. Many families. Many families.
[00:50:23] Sarah Jack: That could happen in any culture on any continent. That warning, for sure.
[00:50:29] Govind Kelkar: Yes. These are the lingering kind of things that continue with their cultures. Yes.
[00:50:34] Sarah Jack: Yeah.
[00:50:35] Govind Kelkar: Yeah, that is very important, really how effective kind of thing it can be. That is because here it is the kind of vengeance, vendetta. As soon as somebody child dies, particularly child dies, and then they are looking for somebody to attack. And they know that child may has been having fever or something, but even then they are looking at that, start looking what somebody must have done something.
So along with the healthcare, availability of the healthcare, this kind of measure also needed, training of the healthcare workers, ASHA, we call them, this would be important at local level. There is a healthcare worker, ASHA, a training of ASHA in this regard would be very important. 
[00:51:19] Sarah Jack: When you were talking about the asking for proof, the requirement of proof, that's the beginning of critical thinking and questioning. I know when we heard from Dr. Leo Igwe with witch attacks in Nigeria, one of the things that they're trying, the Advocacy for Alleged Witches is really trying to implement critical thinking curriculum in the elementary, young pupils, and just getting them to question things.
[00:51:55] Govind Kelkar: It would be important probably. There is some beginning is being made here also in terms of questioning. In Jharkhand it has happened both among the supportive structures outside the community and within community. But in northeast India, which is more literate and more as a kind of, these seven states together, what kind of thing, as all are indigenous states and all are highly educated people, and I think 60 to 80% are Christians converted to Christianity. They are also very well educated because one of the things for Christianity was the education and doing kind of thing there. 
I did not find this kind of questioning. That is what comes as a surprise to me. And one of the things was also that limited research has been done and anthropological researchers that have been done earlier, they have done really like a state of affairs that is this is happening among these communities. Why it is happening, what kind of impact it has, whether it need to be changed, this was not questioned. So this othering of the people, othering of the problem, that is the only thing that kind of is available in the literature that is on the society that is there. Our attempt here in this alliance that they are like us and we are like them, whatever the way we can put it. 
And every society has some problems, so it is not really that, and we need to address this problem. We need to question that problem, because both caste system and sati which I gave these two kind of very bad examples, or even female infanticide, we are still working on these kind of things. Somewhere it has changed, somewhere has not changed. But it has come with much kind of after long struggle kind of thing. So I think this thing is also going to change. I am a strong with optimist that this is also going to change. The laws have been passed in some states. We are trying our kind of effort to pass a laws in other states also. And central, some people were thinking that there should be one laws from the center. And probably there is need for it, but we need specific laws from a state level also, because there are special characters of this problem.
 I define witch, thlen keeper is also witch, because it causes harm to the community that kind of furthering or the tiger person. So that's why I call them in ritual attacks and witch hunts kind of thing. This is hunting of these people, witches, going on within that largely women because they are at a weaker place in the society. So 80% or 85% would be women only. Some men would be denounced. These are the figures that come. 
I have a case study. This has been qualitative study, so case studies about one. 1 63 people, 110 from Jharkhand and the other kind of thing, 14 plus the, FG D'S focus group discussions. So I've not included them, so probably that would be an important thing. That's why I am trying my best to write in these kind of, small monograph or small papers like that. They can be sent to these states, and they can be subject of discussion, but they can be in English because everybody knows English. The language is English. So that is what, but where it is not, probably it can be translated in local languages, also. So that will be the next step that I am aiming at, or we are aiming at the part of this society.
[00:55:45] Sarah Jack: I'd be interested in understanding a little bit more about the struggle and the work for the human rights around the gender inequalities.
[00:55:59] Govind Kelkar: Gender equality and in this kind of sense also, both are sustainable development goals are very important. And there the all states have signed. So it is not really that it is the imposition of North on South that south is very much responsible for the, and a state of gender inequality is very high. India is known for kind of gender inequality. Yeah. Women don't have land rights. Land, I am saying property rights. But land is very important where it's still 63% population is in the rural areas, you will take land as the one kind of factor. So land, house, other property. So this economic dependence of women on men, unless this is addressed, this is the fundamental part of the kind of their inequality. 
Second is about the kind of socialization process. Care work, not being recognized as work. This is another part kind of thing that is, which really feeds on all of us, and these are done at. You know how educated these people are. You sit in the UN system and then you or the economist doing this kind of thing that not a woman does work from morning to evening that goes, and that work is not recognized as work. And so eight hours or six hours you work in the office and that is recognized as work.
So these are the struggles that are going on in the whole feminist movement or gender movement. Economic rights in terms of the real property rights and in terms of the care work, these are the important kind of thing and social norms. How do you question the social norms? Social norms inhibited these laws that have been passed. We need to question our social norms everywhere kind of thing. That would be important. The dress, the hair, the kind of whatever that we want to do. We can do this thing. I'm not taking anarchic position, but I'm taking really the rights based position that we have signed human rights, we have signed human rights declaration. Since 1948, we have been talking about these things about that no discrimination based on sex, class, creed, but these are continuing kind of things. They go back, they come back, some changes made kind of thing. So this is the inequality and that gives us hope, that witch question is also part of this?
How much violence is there women within home and outside in public spaces, and we are all civilized people, that kind of thing. So this is not really that we kill, we call gorillas from somewhere and they are doing it. No, we are doing within our own society. I don't want to blame only indigenous people or indigenous societies or some rural areas for these kind of practices. We are so much engaged in these kind of practices both North and South. South is also North is also a struggling. Women in the North is so struggling against for recognition of their work for maternity leaves. 
I studied the University of Michigan five years was there. And it is not really that women , has any maternity leave as a producing child is the private thing. If you stop producing children, what happens to the human society? Huh? That is the otherwise we talk so much of human resource development, but production of the human resource is not considered, given any value. And how do you maintain support that kind of that work is not even recognized, and there is no recognition of this kind of thing. So of course we come from a historic past where the women did not have the even the right to vote. So in kind of European society, what is the Switzerland got in 1971 or something that is as late as that. So inequality is so much ingrained. Gender inequality is so much ingrained in our social systems.
These norms need to be changed. And this also applies to a whole question of the witch hunts, that also norms should be changed.
[01:00:08] Sarah Jack: And how are the women as far as fighting for this change? Even getting women to the point where they can say, this isn't fair. There's probably so much work to do there.
[01:00:26] Govind Kelkar: We are doing so much work, both in terms of advocacy, in terms of writing, in terms of protest. Doing a lot of work. There is a very vibrant movement in India, also, both women's movement and feminist movement, but atrocities also are committed against women. But we are also not taking it lying down. We are protesting, we are questioning the government system. We are questioning the judicial system. So both are happening, but when you don't, you are not in the positions of power, then it becomes very limited change that you can bring about. So women are not there in parliament. They should be in the parliament in 50% numbers. We don't have 30% kind of thing. And how long this law has been that 30, this is the goal that has been 33% women. So that is, they should be there if, except in the Scandinavian countries, we don't find this kind of number coming up. US doesn't also have, so this is the global situation that we're talking about. 
Globally women's movement also very vibrant in the US. And also in India, also in China. China is supposed to be a very controlled society, but within China also there is a very kind of strong women's movement that is happening. But besides this, there is a kind of this strong movement and the repression is also a strong. So those who are in the positions of power, they also want to maintain their power, whether they are men or women, but in this case it is men who are in the positions of power. 
[01:02:04] Josh Hutchinson: Is there anything that we haven't talked about today that you want to be sure to get across?
[01:02:11] Govind Kelkar: Not as a question, but as a kind of as a solidarity statement that was, I was thinking that at international level this is a big progress. You in the US and Miranda in the Pacific or that part of the world and I in South Asia. Coming together and discussing this itself is a very important step.
We are not really living in our comfort zones, having the kind, we are talking of the social transformation when we are discussing these things. But I don't want to treat this as the exceptional kind of exceptionalism of indigenous people. That has to be the kind of thing it is. 
We have also similar situations in Europe, in US, and in Pacific, much worse. Violence is very high in Pacific. We have racial question in the US. My daughter is there, so I'm familiar. I studied there. So I'm familiar. In India, caste system and in a neglect of indigenous people by and large, that prevails all over. We have a solidarity to work together towards this.
[01:03:21] Sarah Jack: And now for a Minute with Mary. 
[01:03:32] Mary Bingham: Elizabeth How was a woman in her late fifties described by her friends as a devoted Christian and wife, everything a good Puritan carried in her heart. In fact, Elizabeth sought membership with the Ipswich Church in 1682, which she lived in Colonial Massachusetts, British America, but was railroaded by Samuel Perley, who at that time believed that Elizabeth bewitched his sick, 10 year old daughter, Hannah. Hannah remained sick with an illness the doctor could not diagnose. She remained in ill health for three years and blamed Elizabeth for her illness until her dying day. 
So now Elizabeth was considered somewhat of an outcast by some with anger and vengeance rearing their ugly heads. Eventually, Elizabeth was formally accused of witchcraft 10 years later, and the Perley family were soon to testify against her recounting stories from 10 years prior. The only thing that Elizabeth could do as she waited to be hanged at Proctor's Ledge in Salem was to stand to her truth until her dying day, which she did with grace and dignity. 
Let's fast forward to 2012 in the country of Papua New Guinea. A beautiful 20 year old woman and mother of two, Kepari Leniata, was accused of witchcraft when a young neighbor became seriously ill and died at the local hospital. Due to the continuing strong beliefs in others using supernatural harmful means when a sudden death occurs, his grieving parents and relatives blamed his death on sorcery. Two women originally hunted down by the family pointed the finger at Kepari. Kepari was forcefully removed from her hut, dragged through the streets to the local landfill, and was burned alive on a pile of trash with onlookers watching, not helping to save her life. Kepari, like Elizabeth How 320 years prior, stood firm to her truth while she was violently and brutally murdered. 
Please listen to Sarah Jack inform as to how you can become involved to end violent deadly witch hunts. Thank you.
[01:05:53] Sarah Jack: Thank you, Mary.
[01:05:55] Josh Hutchinson: And here's Sarah with End Witch Hunts News. 
[01:06:05] Sarah Jack: End Witch Hunts, a nonprofit 501(c)(3), Weekly News Update. Thank you for being a part of the Thou Shalt Not Suffer podcast community. We appreciate your listening and support. Keep sharing our episodes with your friends, have conversations with them about what you are learning and how you want to jump into end witch hunts with your particular abilities, influence, and network. Community development that works to end witch hunts is an ongoing, long-term, collective effort for all of us to participate in. 
I wanted to share about a special email I received this week from Connecticut. The email was from a local coffee shop that will be featuring an original drink concoction on their upcoming fall menu, honoring their local witch trial history. Stay tuned to our social media to see photos of the drink and find out which town and coffee shop is remembering this victim. What a meaningful gesture to recognize the story of this victim. A menu item created as a tribute to one of the victims named in the recent Connecticut General Assembly bill, HJ 34, is a thoughtful act of memorialization. Those accused and tried for witchcraft crimes in the American colonies were innocent of all witchcraft charges. We are so pleased that Connecticut leadership voted to clear the names of all 34 witch trial victims who are known that were indicted, arrested, or hanged. We'll be continuing advocacy work to see that the remaining known victims in the American colonies witch-hunt history receive exoneration in their states, as well. 
That's two cliffhangers I'm leaving you with today: a coffee surprise, and you just found out you'll be able to join us in continued witch trial victim exoneration efforts in... you'll find out soon. Well, if you follow our social media, you may already have a hunch. 
This podcast is a project of our nonprofit called End Witch Hunts. It is dedicated to global collaboration to end witch hunting in all forms. We collaborate and create projects that build awareness, education, exoneration, justice, memorialization, and research of the phenomenon of witch hunting behavior. In 2022, while we were working on the exonerations for the Connecticut Witch Trial victims of the 17th century, volunteers from the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project founded End Witch Hunts. This organization directs our current and future initiatives such as collaborations for more education and a memorial in Connecticut, exoneration efforts in other states in the U S A where witch trial victims remain guilty for supernational crimes, as well as growing the podcast and our international partnerships with witch-hunt advocates in other nations. When we say that we are working with others to end witch hunts, it means just that. End Witch Hunts employs a three-pronged approach to the problem, focusing on knowledge, memory, and advocacy. You can learn more by visiting our websites and the websites listed in our show notes for more information about country- specific advocacy groups and development plans in motion across the globe. Get involved. Visit endwitchhunts.org. 
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[01:09:15] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah.
[01:09:17] Sarah Jack: You're welcome.
[01:09:19] Josh Hutchinson: Thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast.
[01:09:23] Sarah Jack: We look forward to talking to you next week.
[01:09:26] Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe, rate, and review the show wherever you get your podcasts.
[01:09:32] Sarah Jack: Visit thoushaltnotsuffer.com.
[01:09:35] Josh Hutchinson: Remember to tell your friends, family, acquaintances, neighbors, and coworkers about the show.
[01:09:41] Sarah Jack: Please continue to support our efforts to end witch hunts. Visit endwitchhunts.org to learn more.
[01:09:47] Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow. 

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