Followers of a global pagan witchcraft movement plan to introduce their beliefs in India to curb the persecution and killing of hundreds of witches every year. Witchcraft has been practiced by women in rural, isolated communities in India for centuries but in recent years witches have become ostracised. Many have even been killed by neighbours or family who blame them for doing the work of evil spirits.
In the past five years, police say they have reports of more than 700 women being killed as witches in eastern India alone. But the real figure could be many times higher, they say.
Now, followers of the Wicca faith from the United States, Britain and India plan to introduce their religion in Kolkata to promote awareness of witchcraft and provide support for harrassed witches.
“People from different walks of life and even governments had asked me to institutionalise Wicca, but I was waiting for the right moment,” Ipsita Roy Chakraverti, a prominent social activist who practices Wicca, said.
“Now is the time we stood up against people who persecute and kill innocent women,” said Chakraverti, adding that the Indian “Wiccan Brigade” would also register complaints of persecution and coordinate with police to ensure cases were brought to trial. Around 100 people have already signed up to take a training programme in Wiccan philosophy, literature and psychology and students will also set up a grievance cell, she said.
Like many Pagan religions, Wicca practises magic and witches believe that the human mind has the power to effect change in ways that are not fully understood by science.