Guwahati: Grappling with the pain of losing his young son barely three days ago, Gopal Chandra Das, the father of Nilotpal Das, on Monday wished to be part of an awareness drive against superstition across Assam to prevent similar incidents.
Das, a retired railways employee, made the appeal when chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal met him here on Monday, following which the Sonowal directed the officials to launch an awareness drive within a week.
A mob in Karbi Anglong district on Friday had lynched Nilotpal and his friend Abhijit Nath at Panjuri village, suspecting them to be child lifters, following "fake" information swirling in social media about "prowling child lifters".
The awareness drive, named Sanskar-Manuhe Manuhor Babe (a famous line of legendary singer Bhupen Hazarika) will cover all villages and panchayats to drive home the message against blind faith and superstition still prevalent, mainly in rural areas. The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Sonowal here on Monday afternoon.
Assam Science Technology and Environment Council (Astec) will be the nodal agency to implement the campaign, which could also include making people aware about the pitfalls of rumour-mongering. The Sanskar campaign will engage anti-superstition crusader like Birubala Rabha, who had rescued many victims of "witch hunt" attacks and made people aware against superstitions in many villages.
Witch hunting is a serious issue, mainly in rural areas where the victims are branded witches and are blamed for ailment of other villagers before they are attacked and killed. More than 80 women have been killed in such attacks since 2006.
"The awareness drive will include all deputy commissioners, superintendents of police and all government departments in a district. All local bodies, mahila samitis, voluntary organisations, media persons, leading citizens, artists, academicians, all MPs and MLAs and other stake holders," said an official statement issued by the chief minister's office.
Sonowal asked the officials to work out details of the campaign in the next three days and launch the drive within a week.
"Assam is known for its unique hospitality and people coming from all over the country must feel an ambience of friendliness where ever they go in the state," the statement said, quoting Sonowal.
The chief minister's media adviser, Hrishikesh Goswami, legal adviser Santanu Bharali, chief secretary T.Y. Das, director-general of police Kuladhar Saikia, special director-general of police (special branch) Pallab Bhattacharyya, Astec director Arup Misra and other senior government officials attended the meeting.
The awareness drive decision by the BJP-led government comes a day after many organisations criticised it for allegedly promoting superstition, mainly by performing vaastu rituals in many ministers' offices.