Of Witchcraft and Wizardry

This year is making up for the three and a half decades that I lived through when nothing really happened. No, I miswrote. They did. Things simmered quietly behind veils of convenience and deliberate disregard. They were always brewing, and now the cup floweth over. Now we have a century worth of the sins flowing through the air like a pandemic. From the shadows cast by the gloom and doom are emerging monsters we have bred and concealed for an age. This week I woke up standing face to face with one such.

#WitchesonStake

In the wake of a tragedy and an ensuing investigation, Bengali women are suddenly finding themselves on a stake. The community has been alleged of Wiccan practices to ensnare beguiled young men. Pieces of evidence have been presented aplenty – the brazen independence, the ambition, the indomitable self-esteem. We are the clear and present danger to the cis brown man.

My first response to this allegation thrown casually at my kind was defiant pride. If the definition of a witch is a woman who has a mind of her own and can stand up for herself and others, then bring on the allegations. I say bring on the spirits of Freya, Circe, and Baba Yaga and let them burn my fire bright!

But, the allegation of witchcraft practice is such an old and effective tool of oppression, that it merits a discussion beyond my knee-jerk

Patriarchy’s Witch Hunt

The 18th Century hunt for witches in Salem is a well-known period of darkness in human history. Witch-hunt is a menace much closer home as well, and we don’t have to turn the pages of history for that. A 2016 report of the National Crime Records Bureau shows that more than 2,500 people (mostly women) were chased, tortured, and killed between 2000 and 2016 in India for allegedly being witches/sorcerers. These are only the official numbers, because witch hunts, as you might imagine, don’t really make it to an FIR page. Witch trials happen regularly in modern-day India, were women landowners are adjudged satan worshippers by Kangaroo courts. Their lands are appropriated, and more often than not, they are raped, paraded naked, their breasts are cut off, or poison is poured forcibly down their throats.

So, when that woman on Twitter is asking Bengali men to tame their #bengaliwitches ‘, this is what she means. She wants us to start worshipping at the altar of patriarchy.

When a lot of humanity rises above that shit, they make examples for others, they stoke a revolution. Bengal has always been full of witches and wizards – from Vidyasagar to the Tagore women, from Ashapurna Devi to Rituparno Ghosh – Bengal has often refused to relent to misogyny. So, the woman on Twitter is not far off – we are made of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Which neatly brings me back to my knee-jerk reaction. Thank Satan for clean endings.

About Anumita Ghosh

Anumita believes her calling has to do with the written words. She loves to write and read, and has recently given up a(n) (almost) rocking career in the Corporate to pursue her passion. Yes, she is slightly off her rocker, but then the society has been largely accepting of her madness. She is the co-founder of Blank Slate Chronicles and a struggling domestic apprentice, not to mention a loving (yet inadequately skilled) mother to a toddler.

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Anumita Ghosh

Anumita believes her calling has to do with the written words. She loves to write and read, and has recently given up a(n) (almost) rocking career in the Corporate to pursue her passion. Yes, she is slightly off her rocker, but then the society has been largely accepting of her madness. She is the co-founder of Blank Slate Chronicles and a struggling domestic apprentice, not to mention a loving (yet inadequately skilled) mother to a toddler.

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