• Anti-Superstition Legislation: History of Anti-Superstition Legislation

    Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti

    December 12, 2016


    History Of Anti-Superstition Legislation

    Need for the Law: As the population of human beings increased on our planet, and they began to live in larger tribal groups to prevent disputes and aggressive behavior between members of the group or tribe, certain rules and regulations became necessary so that the members of the group could lead a relatively peaceful life. As the human species civilizes into a more advanced and noble society, these rules and regulations or laws,  are modified whenever necessary from time to time. This evolution still  continues. At this moment of time in our part of the world   harmful superstitions exist in the majority of uneducated and also in the  educated strata of society.  It is also a fact that there exist a large number of people whose main means of livelihood is to misuse these superstitious beliefs and make a living.  If societies have to be more civilized, this situation has to be changed. This could be changed on the one hand by educating  people and on the other by preventing unscrupulous elements in society from taking advantage of the ignorance of people.  Hence it is necessary to enact a law to protect  people from such unscrupulous members of society.

    Questions are always posed as to whether society changes simply by enactment of rules and laws.  The ineffectiveness of laws for prohibition of dowry and prohibition of alcohol consumption are cited to prove that society does not change. But this is not the full truth. Even if we accept, that enactments of laws alone, do not compel  society to change, historical evidence in the cases of prohibition  of Sati, Child marriage, Untouchability , Slavery and other such uncivilized practices, prove that enactment of laws has helped society to give up such evil, uncivilized practices.  Moreover, if there is an active social agitation going on in  society, against some undesirable belief systems and if a large section of society  actively participates in eradicating harmful superstitious beliefs,  then the enactment of such a law will certainly accelerate this process.  Moreover, people, social reformers and well-wishers desire that in the interest of the community, their representatives should ratify such an act as early as possible.

    Draft Bill: The novelty of this draft law is that it does not get entrapped in the argument of defining faith and blind faith.  Hence, at this point of time, what is to be considered  blind faith is given in a separate schedule.  This list can be periodically updated.  Hence the impediment for the enactment of this law has been overcome. The list is quite really exhaustive and includes the most common superstitions prevailing in Maharashtra. The list includes

    1. performing  Karni, Bhanamati, 
    2. performing  magical rites in the name of supernatural power, 
    3. offering  ash, talisman, charms etc. for the purpose of exorcism and  driving out evil     spirits or ghosts, 
    4. claiming  possession of supernatural powers and  advertising this claim, 
    5. defaming, disgracing the names of erstwhile Saints/ Gods, by claiming to be their reincarnation and thus cheating  gullible and God-fearing simple folk. 
    6. claiming to be possessed by divine power or evil power and then performing miracles in the name of such powers. 
    7. punishing and  beating mentally ill patients in the belief that they are possessed by evil spirits. 
    8. performing Aghori rites. 
    9. performing so called black magic and spreading fear in society. 
    10. performing “Gopal Santan Vidhi” to beget a male offspring. 
    11. opposing scientific medical treatment and  coercing into adopting Aghori treatment. 
    12. selling or dealing in so-called magic stones, talisman, bracelets, charms. 
    13. becoming possessed by supernatural powers and then pretending to give answers to any questions in this mental state. 
    14. sacrificing innocent animals for the appeasement of gods or spirits. 
    15. dispensing magical remedies for curing rabies and snake bites. 
    16. dispensing medical remedies with claims of assured fertility.

    Objections and Clarifications 
    It is necessary to create awareness in our society to provide a healthy and safe social environment with a view to protect the poor and ignorant people against  the evil and sinister practices and customs which thrive on blind faith, beliefs and ignorance. Blind faith and beliefs are propagated in the name of God or some so called divine or supernatural being or magical powers or evil spirits.  God men, quacks and conmen exploit and harm the mentally, physically and financially  poor and ignorant people in  Society thereby destroying the very social fabric of  Society.

    The exploitation of poor and ignorant people as well as some educated elite has reached alarming proportions at the hands of the so called God men, quacks and conmen. It has, therefore become absolutely necessary for the Government to take appropriate, urgent and stringent, social and legal measures to effectively curtail the spread and evil   effects of the harmful practices of black magic and to save the poor and ignorant from falling prey to the sinister designs of the black magicians, quacks and conmen. Their false claims of possessing magical or miraculous remedies or powers should be exposed and their antisocial and harmful activities seriously threatening and damaging the very social fiber should be stopped as they distract the common people from  authentic and scientific medical remedies and cures.

    Many people believe that making a law would not eradicate blind faith and the consequent exploitation of the poor and ignorant. What we need is the awakening, education and economic well-being of the downtrodden. Many social organizations are engaged in creating awareness among the poor  and helping them to help themselves. But it is a time consuming process and gives opportunities to  unscrupulous conmen to carry out their nefarious activities in the mean time. To stop their malpractices and to bring them to book is essential to hasten the process of education and creating awareness. A law against such practices is utterly necessary to give teeth to the organizations that are fighting superstition.

    Salient Features of the Bill
    The Bill seeks to prohibit practice, promotion and propagation of Black Magic. A comprehensive definition of the term “practice of Black Magic” contains the evil practices, customs, etc., and also the unauthorized and illegal practice of medicine or healing or curing by quacks, conmen and  so-called god men. Such practice is being made an offense under this Act and to serve as a deterrent it is proposed to provide for  stringent penalty and punishment, making such practice a cognizable and non-bailable offense.

    The actions that are considered as offenses  against this law are listed here as follows. Objections to some of the provisions of this law appear now and then in the news papers. Those objections along with clarification and comments on them follow the particular clauses.

    1)Under the pretext of expelling a spirit, assaulting by tying up a person with a rope or chain, beating with a stick or whip, to make the person  drink footwear-soaked water, giving chilli smoke, hanging a person to the roof, fixing him with rope or by hair or plucking his hair, causing pain by way of touching a heated object to organs or the body of a person, forcing a person to perform a sexual act in the open, practicing inhuman acts, putting urine or human excreta forcibly in the mouth of a person or practising any such acts.

    Objection: A few Bhagats use needles as in acupuncture to cure diseases. Whipping oneself is an age old Potaraj custom.  Traditionally people  injure themselves slightly and put a red mark with their blood on the forehead of the idol. All these actions in the light of this clause are criminal. No doubt, they are superstitions; but is it a crime severe enough to invite 7 years of imprisonment? These superstitions do not pose any danger to life. They should be tackled with education, creating awareness and awakening. Making use of laws will antagonize the common man who will rebel against the government and the police and render the enforcement of the law impossible.

    Clarification: Potaraj does not really beat himself but he pretends to do that. Hundreds of our workers demonstrate this in mass meetings. There is no question of their being punished under this law. But when the same hook is used for piercing hundreds of devotees who come to fulfill their vows or to draw blood from their foreheads with one and the same razor it is not even remotely related to worshiping a deity. It involves the danger of spreading infections and especially AIDS. When perpetrators of these negligent practices are tried in  court, the judges do use their sense of proportion and the apprehension of their being sentenced to 7 years imprisonment is uncalled for.

    2)Display of so called miracles by a person and thereby earning money; and to deceive, defraud and terrorise people by propagation and circulation of so called miracles.

    Objection: There are some people in the society who are blessed with special powers by which they can cure physical or mental diseases or pacify the persons who are suffering.  Under this clause such persons are punished. This is unnecessary.

    Clarifications: First of all there are no human beings with supernatural powers in this world. If someone claims such things he/she is a fraud and their intention is to cheat gullible people and extract money. As such this clause is necessary to prevent fraudulent people from cheating the gullible.

    3)With a view to receiving blessings of a supernatural power, to follow  inhuman, evil and aghori practices which cause danger to life or grievous hurt, to instigate, encourage or compel others to follow such practices.

    Objection: We believe that one can acquire supernatural powers by practising certain rituals. One should not stop such learning.

    Clarification: These rituals sometimes cause serious injuries and even death. Sometimes the practitioners instigate innocent people to participate in such aghori practices and subject them to fatal dangers. This clause prevents such practices.

    4)Doing any inhuman, evil and aghori acts and black magic in search of precious things, bounty and water resources, or for similar reasons in the name of karni, bhanamati and making or trying to make human sacrifices in the name of  jaran-maran or the like, or to advise, instigate or encourage committing such inhuman acts.

    Objection: If someone, using such knowledge, is able to stop Bhanamati or reveal  hidden treasures or lost property, why  should the law interfere with such practices?

    Clarification: These practices are generally manifestations of unsatisfied souls and people claiming possession of such knowledge are frauds because there is no evidence of the existence of souls. Their hidden motivation is to terrorize the innocent and make money. As such this clause will prevent such practices to some extent.

    5)To create an impression by declaring that a power inapprehensible by the senses has influenced one’s body or that a person is possessed by such a  power and thereby create fear in the minds of others or to threaten others of evil consequences for not following the advice of such persons or deceive, defraud and deter him.

    Objection: In thousands of temples in India, tens of thousands of men and women are made to believe they are possessed on the day of Ashtami. Muslims believe – as a common custom – they are possessed by Sawari. Undoubtedly these are superstitions. But is it possible for the government of Maharashtra to put them all in jail?

    Clarification: Being possessed is a hypnotic state. It is glorified by tradition as being besotted by a deity. Catharsis or releasing pent up emotions by huffing and puffing, gasping and wheezing and other such actions and believing these to be the work of a deity or Devi is not considered a crime. According to the law, a superstition becomes a crime when it leads to pain, injury, harm or deceit. But when someone claiming that he/she is possessed pretends to reveal the names of individuals who are practising Black Magic (actually accusing someone for the sake of vengeance) and spreading unrest or ordering people to insert their hands in boiling oil to prove their innocence or giving deceitful answers to questions related to people’s lives is a punishable crime according to the 5th clause. And there cannot be two opinions about it.

    6)By making persons believe that a particular person practises karni, black magic or is  under the influence of ghost or diminishes the milking capacity of  cattle by mantra-tantra or similarly accusing a particular person that he brings misfortune to others, or is a cause for spread of diseases and thereby making the life of such a person miserable, troublesome or difficult, to declare such a person as saitan or incarnation of saitan.
    Objection: How can mere chanting of Mantras become a crime? Chanting of Mantras while exorcising a ghost does cause panic in the surroundings. One who thinks he is possessed quite often gets relief from the malady when Mantras are chanted. Visiting a psychiatrist is beyond the means of such persons. In such circumstances is it wise to rob him of the only remedy that is  available and affordable?

    Clarification: The panic caused while chanting Mantras as stated in the objection itself is a divine terrorism. This godly dread is much more serious than any familiar terrorism and is beyond any law at present.

    This clause, therefore, is utterly necessary. A bigger error in the objection is the contention that forms the latter part of this objection. The psychological illness of a person can be severe or mild. Changed expression, muttering to oneself, experiencing illusions, neglecting personal hygiene, incoherent behavior, etc., are symptoms of severe mental illness called psychosis. To treat such a person by Mantras for exorcising the ghost that has supposedly possessed him is an inexcusable mistake. The Mantrik and his Chanting Mantras can never cure such persons. It only delays proper treatment at the cost of the patient’s health. Mild psychological illness cause temporary changes in  behavior that many take to be possession by a ghost. These patients do get temporary relief, at times, by accepting the suggestions of the Mantrik. But this treatment for mild malady is also wrong. The social and family stress and strain that caused this ailment should be addressed; positive suggestions should be given along with the minimum medication that is necessary in such cases. This simple treatment does not need an inaccessible and expensive psychiatric facility. A general practitioner or a well-informed and knowledgeable community social worker can do the job. Treatment by the Mantrik amounts to mishandling the sick mind of the patient and is certainly a crime. (In fact a law prohibiting unauthorized medical practice is already in place and action can be taken against such practitioners)

    7)In the name of jaran-maran or chetuk, assaulting any person, parading him naked or putting a ban on his daily activities.

    8)To create a panic in the minds of the public in general by way of invoking ghosts or mantras or threatening to invoke ghosts, creating an impression that there is ghostly or wrath of power inapprehensible by senses causing physical injuries and preventing a person from taking medical treatment and instead diverting him to practice inhuman, evil and aghori acts or causing financial harm by practising or intending to practise black magic or inhuman acts.

    Objection: It is a serious mistake to proclaim use of Angara and Amulets criminal. Psychological treatment is important in treating all types of psychosomatic diseases. In theses kinds of illnesses  traditional remedies like angara (sacred ash like powder), Ganda (a thick cord to be tied round the wrist), Dora (a string round the neck), Tait (Amulet) prove very effective because of faith and age old practice. These are superstitions and they can only be overcome by educating  ignorant people. Will using the weapon of law against them produce the expected results? It will be sensible and practical if their use is labeled criminal when they are used for curing diseases like diabetes, hypertension, heart problems, etc., where stopping or not giving authentic medical aid can cost the patient’s life. The traditional ways despite being superstitious help in reducing anxiety and tension and prove complementary to modern medicine. Even the World Health Organization has recognized treatments as Alternative Medicines that include some superstitious methods too.

    Clarification: Regarding psychosomatic conditions the main problem is who is to decide whether the illness is psychosomatic or not. If it is a headache is it due to mental agony like anxiety or due to a brain tumor or hypertension or cold or due to need for glasses? A practitioner of alternative medicine just cannot reach an accurate diagnosis.

    Confusing a somatic ailment with a psychosomatic one causes much avoidable trouble. Examples of Mal-treatment because of such wrong diagnosis are aplenty. All that one can say is that once a correct diagnosis is made, a practitioner of traditional medicine on obtaining minimum training in treating such illness be allowed to treat psychosomatic diseases to reduce the patient’s tension and anxiety.

    9)Prohibiting and preventing a person from taking medical treatment in case of dog, snake or scorpion bite and instead giving him treatment like mantra tantra,  gandedora or  other such things.

    Objection: Treating terminally ill  patients with charmed stones and cheating them with false hopes becomes a crime under this law. The common man turns to this method as a last resort only when the doctors admit that they are helpless. The relatives of the patient at such a point in time are emotionally much too upset and the police will simply not be able to interfere. Where is the need for a law in such cases?

    Clarification: It is distressing that the relatives of a patient suffering from terminal illness turn to unscientific superstitious methods out of frustration. All of us should and do sympathize with them. But the unpardonable confusion here is that the helplessness of these people is mistaken to be a license for cheating. Advertising any godly treatment is a criminal act according to the law in existence. The new law is a step with women’ has no relevance with any Hindu traditions, Naga Sadhus, or Digambar Jain Acharyas. Yet there is no objection to deleting this clause so as to appease the contenders.

    10)Claiming to perform surgery by the use of  fingers or claiming to change the sex of a foetus in the womb of a woman.

    11)(a) To create an impression that special supernatural powers are present in himself, incarnation of another person or body spirit or that the devotee was his wife, husband or paramour in the last birth thereby indulging in sexual activity with such a person.   

    Objection: This clause may be made applicable only if the woman concerned herself complains of being deceived.

    Clarification: It is unlikely that any woman will come forward and complain about the perpetrator of this crime for obvious reasons and this will leave the godman, Baba, Guru or Mantrik to go about his business  and molest many more innocent young girls or middle aged women.

    (b) To have sexual relations with a woman who is unable to conceive, assuring her of motherhood through supernatural power.

    Objection: Psychological processes are of great importance in the matter of sexual satisfaction, sexual vigor and problems of menstruation. Meditation, prayers and other traditional mental practices can bring about a lot of improvement in these matters. With regard to these facts the clause seems unscientific.

    Clarification: The claim to have divine remedies for any thing is criminal because such a claim does not stand up to any scrutiny. Thee law does not ban meditation, prayer, etc.

    12)To create an impression that a mentally retarded person h as  supernatural powers and utilizing such persons  for business or occupation.

    Objection: A person, in this case should be brought to book only if he poses to be a reincarnation of some deity and only if the victim complains of being deceived. Our country is inundated with sexual problems especially in the  case of women. In such circumstances if both the partners, with mutual consent enter into any sexual relationship under some religious guise, why should the government or any organization for eradication of superstition  interfere? Is it proper or necessary? The social organizations, in fact, should have a liberal and humane outlook towards it.

    Clarification:  This sounds like the methods of Bhagawan Rajaneesh.

    The last and the most important allegation is that this law is meant to condemn the superstitions of the ignorant villagers and not those of the educated urban elite who intentionally cheat and swindle others. It is not possible to ban superstition by law and it cannot be banned. What we need is a comprehensive law to prosecute a person if he is accused of causing monetary loss to another person.

    The demand for the provision of criminal proceedings against those who exploit others in the name of faith and religion on receiving a complaint from the victim is fully justified. ANS agrees with it completely. However the charge that this law is made keeping in view the poor ignorant villagers and condemns them for availing of whatever little support they get from the sources in their surroundings, letting the educated urban elite free to indulge in fads like Feng Shui, astrology, Vaastu Shastra  is simply without a shred of truth in it and therefore unacceptable. A survey of those who fall prey to superstition conducted recently in the metropolis proves that this law is unbiased and unprejudiced. The law is a first step in the right direction. It has taken 18 long years to take this first step. Let us now unite to progress further with all our might put together.

    The substance of this law
    In order to avoid any dispute about Faith and superstition, erupting in the Court of Law, there is no mention of  faith or blind faith in this act.  12 items listed earlier are to be considered as superstitions. They are Dakin, Jadutona (black magic), Mantra-Tantra, etc. that openly exploit gullible people. This law is the first of its kind in India. If a person is convicted of the crime committed under this law, he will be sentenced to hard labour in prison from 6 months to 7 years. In order to avoid any dispute on the law, all words like god, fate, religion, faith and superstition are totally avoided.

    This law is against fraudulent and exploitative practices. Such practices  have no place in an enlightened society. In the entire text there is not a single word about God or Religion.

    The essential purpose of this law is ‘to bring social awakening and awareness in  society and to create a healthy and safe social environment with a view to protecting the common people in  society against the evil and sinister practices thriving on ignorance.’ The draft bill clearly specifies 12 such practices .

    These include  claiming to perform surgery with just fingers or to change the sex of the fetus in the womb, sexual exploitation under the guise of claims of supernatural powers,  branding women as witches and causing them physical harm, human sacrifices and other Aghori practices. All of us need to ask one simple question; whether we should remain in a barbaric condition or should try to evolve into homo sapiens sapiens.

    The Law : ANS began its march of eradicating superstition by declaring a manifesto of the movement, in the year 1989. The manifesto, among other things, had demanded to ratify a law against superstitions. It was conveyed to the then chief minister honorable Sharad Pawar. However nothing has so far been done in this regard. The steps forward in making the law are described below.

    1. A.P.G. Dasturkar presented a private bill to enact the anti-superstition law in the legislative assembly in July 1995. The NDA was in power at that time. But the Congress party was in a majority in the assembly. The bill was approved by  majority vote. But the NDA government did not take any further action on it.

    1. In 1999 the UPA came into power. Their minimum common programme was drafted under the chairmanship of Prof. N.D.Patil and the party assured the public they would pass the law against exploitative superstition within a year.

    1. In 2003 the cabinet approved of the law. On 15th August the government announced that Maharashtra was the first state in India to pass such a law. Later the name of this law was changed to ‘law against black magic’ from the original “law against superstition’.

    1. As the assembly was wound up before its stipulated period,the draft of the law was sent to the Governor for approval. But the governor decided to defer it till the next Government came into power after the elections.

    1. On 13th April 2005 the Minister for Social Justice tried to table this law in the legislative assembly. But it had to be deferred because of the misguided opposition by the party in power.

    1. Next the law was revised and made less stringent. The modified compliant law was passed in the legislative assembly on 16th Dec. 2005. It was deferred once again by filibustering and was sent to the Joint Investigating Committee in 2007. The Committee called for people’s opinion on the law. 55000 people opposed it while 80000 supported it.

    1. Then came a suggestion that the committee members should go to Pandharpur and hold discussions with the Varkaris on this issue. The Minister for Social Justice, Shri Chandrakant Handore, however, could not make it convenient to visit Pandharpur throughout the whole year. Finally after the assembly elections in 2009, the law bill became invalid.

    1. In 2009, Ashok Chavan became the Chief Minister, but he did not do a thing to promote the passage of the law. In Nov. 2010, the reins of the Chief Minister ship were handed over to Mr. Prithviraj Chavan and the Cabinet endorsed the law in April 2011.

    1. The Chief Minister had promised to pass the law during the Monsoon Session of 2013, but it was only tabled in the legislative assembly.

    1. Dr Dabholkar and ANS tried their best to persuade Ministers to table the bill in the Budget Session of 2013. Though all concerned agreed to do so, but somehow it was not tabled until the last moment.

    1. Dr Dabholkar was shot dead on 20 Aug 2013. On 24 Aug Maharashtra Govt issued the Ordinance ‘Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other inhuman Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Ordinance 2013’ which would be tabled in the winter Session being held at Nagpur with effect from 9 Dec 2013 to convert it into the regular law. Or otherwise Ordinance will get lapsed after six months, i. e. In Feb 2014.


    Teacher's Story

    Raybhan Tembhurne is a school teacher in a small village of Bhandara district. He had three daughters; eldest Ratna, age 20, studying in college; Amita, age 16, studying in 12th standard; and the youngest Seema, age 13, studying in high-school. His was apparently a happy family. He had a very good rapport with the villagers. He had some psychological problems for which he was under treatment in Nagpur. One of his friends suggested that he should meet Nandini, a lady Mantrik, famous in that area to cure any chronic disease, to treat jaundice patients, and to de-possess  witches. The public believed that she had supernatural powers for handling such patients. Raybhan was very much impressed by her ‘treatment’. He was a firm believer of Satyug, a cult to bring goodness on this earth. He proposed to Nandini to be with him to bring in Satyug. She deserted her husband and started living with him as a ‘second wife’. She terrorized his family as well as the villagers with her ‘spell of Goddess’. Everyone started addressing her as Mataji. Raybhan’s family was mesmerized by her speech and actions. The young daughters stopped going to school. Mataji would never allow anyone in the family to take any outside medicine if they fell ill. Mataji would insist that it is a visitation of spirits and she has the power to heal.

    However one day the eldest daughter, Ratna, fell ill. But Mataji did not allow her any medical treatment. Nandini tried her power of healing. But Ratna succumbed to death that night. Raybhan buried the body in a nearby plot in spite of the plot-owner’s protest. The news of Ratna’s death reached the villagers and rumours started spreading. Agitated villagers believed that Raybhan had killed his daughter, instigated by Nandini who promised him a son if he sacrificed the daughter. The angry crowd wanted to kill all the members of the family for such a heinous act. However police interfered in time and pacified the crowd. The crowd insisted  on a full inquiry of the incident by conducting a post mortem of the body. The body was exhumed and sent to the hospital. Villagers found flowers, coconut and other things of worship near the burial place. The timely action by the police prevented the massacre of the family and its aftermath  as it happened in the Khairalanji incident. A Dalit family would have been victims of the wrath of  society. The family was arrested and sent to jail.

    These kinds of incidents happen very frequently. It may happen that all the culprits will be released without any punishment due to some loopholes in the law under which they have been arrested.

    Sufi Sikandar Shah

    Jalana district in Marthawada area of Maharashtra is comparatively a backward area sans education, sans infrastructure facilities. That may be one reason for having a big harvest of Babas, Maharajas, and Devis operating in that district either openly or secretly. Suphiji Sikandar Shah is one of them who used to advertise in the local newspaper. The gist of his advertisement used to be that he will change the destiny of the visitors; he has 22 years of experience; within 76 hours one will find the effect of his blessings for cases like loss in business, marriage difficulties, family problems, not having any children, possession by ghosts and spirits, cure for chronic diseases, de-addiction, vitality etc; tie the amulet blessed by him and problems will vanish. He camped in a hotel along with 4-5 accomplices and did a roaring business. No one raised an iota of doubt that a young person of age 25 – 26 can have  the experience of 22 years! He decorated his room with pictures of Hindu and Muslim gods and goddesses including Saibaba of Shirdi.

    Kundalini Baba

    A local Spiritualism Centre in Madgao, Goa arranged a workshop of four days of Siddha Rameshaji Chouhan recently. The Centre was very proud of such a distinguished guest who is an expert in awakening Kundalini through which good health, immense peace of mind and spiritual knowledge can be gained. The handbill circulated in the town promised many things about  Kundalini. “This Kundalini awakening process will result in removing all wicked thoughts, avarice, and bad habits from one’s life. The process of Shambhavi will bring  healing and supernatural powers. The Ganesh process promises freedom from all spells; there won’t be any worries henceforth. Patients suffering from kidney, heart, cancer, blood-pressure, AIDS, tumor, will have soothing experiences.” The handbill also mentioned the contact number for further information. On enquiry it was revealed that though the public lecture in the town hall is free of charge but subsequent consultations  cost 3000 Rs per day.

    It has become a craze to arrange such bizarre workshops, lectures etc. to confuse the minds of the public by tall claims and concoct weird methods to achieve  everlasting peace of mind and happiness. These so called counseling centers are in the money spinning business by fooling the people, including educated ones. There is no positive preventive method to curb such practices.

    Nivruttibua from Kolhapur

    Nivrutti Ramachandra Chougule, a middle aged person, who took voluntary retirement, started the business of family counseling in and around his village in Kolhapur district posing as  a Godman. It was rumoured that he practices black magic to cure the patients of chronic diseases; he has supernatural powers to solve any issues of the family. People used to rush to him for his advice, and sometimes called him to visit their places and bless them with his power.

    A married woman from Tamagao, a village near Kolhapur invited him for ‘Vaastushanti’. During the ceremony Nivruttibua suggested  having sexual relations to achieve the happiness of the new house. The lady was utterly confused and narrated the story to her family members. The family members were very angry and the word spread around the village. The villagers gathered and started beating Nivruttibua with whatever was in their hands. They tore his clothing and put a garland of shoes and chappals around his neck and took a procession to the nearby police station.

    These incidents are not rare. They occur regularly in villages. Since there is not much of news value, the news stories do not appear in the press or in the media unless there are some extreme consequences. Police are not in a position to prevent such incidents due to lack of adequate laws.

    All the above four incidents are self explanatory about the failure of existing laws to curb them. The time has come to stop all this nonsense, happening under the name of God and religion. The devoted people who have faith in  God should also come up and support the rationalists to prevent such episodes in future and insist on the enactment of  the law to prevent black magic, evil practices and gory customs which are still prevailing in  society.

    Questions are always posed as to whether society changes simply by enactment of rules and laws.  The ineffectiveness of laws for prohibition of dowry and prohibition of alcohol consumption are cited to prove that society does not change. But this is not the full truth. Even if we accept, that enactments of laws alone, do not compel  society to change, historical evidence in the cases of prohibition of practice of Sati, and other such uncivilized practices, proves that enactment of laws has helped society to give up such evil, uncivilized practices.  Moreover, if there is an active social agitation going on in  society, against some undesirable belief systems, and if a large section of society  actively participates in eradicating harmful superstitious beliefs,  then the enactment of such a law will certainly accelerate this process.  Moreover, people, social reformers and well-wishers desire that in the interest of the community, their representatives should ratify such an act as early as possible.

    First published in Published here with minor edits.

    Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.