It is a weird world where we can question science but not religion. The fact is that religion is a very sensitive area. Framing laws for religion invites controversies, debates and even deaths. Karnataka, like elsewhere, in India has its share of superstitious practices. There are some dangerous practices like throwing of babies off the roof of the temple in North Karnataka or controversial practices like the one wherein people roll over leftover food of Brahims, at Subramanyam temple. In 2013, National Law University, Bangalore came up with the draft of “Karnataka Prevention of Superstitious Practices Bill” which was later reviewed by state advocate general. The idea was not to kill people’s faith but prosecute those who are causing sufferings and injury in the name of superstition. The Anti Superstition Bill formally known as Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill was finally passed in 2017 after a lot of delay and debate. It is the bill built on the lines of The Maharashtra Government’s Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013.
A law on superstition might not be the sufficient solution but it is a good starting point to the problem. The matter of debate should be what should be banned and what shouldn’t be banned. The Anti Superstition Bill should be welcomed. Clearly, law cannot change the belief of people but it can instil fear which is necessary to prevent inhuman practices. People have started feeding themselves by targeting insecure people. Palmistry, astrology and all such practices have become a big business. The problem is that there is fear amongst people, and with fear comes vulnerability. This causes them to believe in things they should not believe in. Superstition is a wide area which needs special law. Also, the crime here is of a bizarre nature which needs to be dealt with in a different manner. For instance, there is already a law for the cases of assault. Despite this, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act was passed in 2005. This was necessary because of the specific relation with the perpetrator.
Anti Superstition Bill Karnataka is relatively new. However, the Times of India report shows that there were 130 cases filed under Anti Superstition Law in the first 18 months when it was implemented in Maharashtra. A man called Patil Baba who claimed himself to be the avatar of god was arrested under this act. This was not possible without this law. According to the News Minute article such practices are so prevalent in Karnataka that practitioners charge fees for performing activities. A murder would cost Rs 5- 10 lakhs and Rs 8000 would be charged for getting good results in exams. On August 20 th, a 57 year old was murdered by a so called tantrik, so that he could make the lives of his other two clients better. It is so saddening to hear such stories. Hema Swain, a 60 year old was tied to a tree and beaten up harshly in a village near Patapur. All this because people believed that she was a witch. Such cases need attention, need laws.
According to the Quint report, the opposition party majorly opposed the bill as they believed it was anti-Hindu. According to them, “the bill is demeaning and criminalises Hindu”. Does this mean that the party supports a person who would rather believe in mantras to cure himself than going for medical aid? Does this mean that they are supportive of people sacrificing lives at the cost of faith? It is important to understand that faith is different from blind faith. The bill definitely questions the religious beliefs but it is only for the greater good of the society. We need to understand this is not the fight against religion but it is a fight against wrong. Also, superstition is not hindu specific it is there in other religions as well. People may say that law is not the solution to alter beliefs, education is. Unfortunately such practices are also followed by educated individuals, which make it even necessary to seek help from legislation. For instance, the Burari’s house of horror case wherein 11 people committed mass suicide in Delhi because they felt that the death God himself spoke to them. As per the reports by NDTV, the family was well educated yet they decided to take this step. Education cannot eradicate superstition, it can only make people less superstitious.
It was not easy to come to this day when we actually have law against inhuman practices. It has not only seen opposition but has also led to killing of great individuals. Dr Dabholkar, who was killed while he went for a morning walk was a strong supporter of this bill. Implementation of the bill is like a tribute to his efforts, his ideas, and his sacrifice. It is disheartening that sometimes to bring good in the society it takes the lives of some great individuals. Neglecting activities which cause harm to human beings should not be entertained. If we do not act now it will only increase. Legal requirements are minimum requirement. Use of RTI, continuous monitoring of religious organisations, spreading awareness are other ways that can be used. Considering that there are a lot of fraud people amid us trying to promote blind faith what can be done to reduce this is certification. There should be a basic methodology for this. People who claim to be Astrologers palmists and prophets should have some certification. Moreover, amendments in the existing law, better implementation and monitoring progress is a must. It is only the two states up till now who have successfully implemented Anti Superstition law in India. Undoubtedly, there is a long way to go.