To begin with, it must be appreciated that the ruling Congress Government in poll bound Karnataka has finally on November 16, 2017 got the controversial “Anti-Superstition Bill” passed unanimously in the ongoing winter session of the Karnataka State Assembly to eradicate evil practices with some minor amendments. It is largely based on the Maharashtra model. The much-delayed, much-hyped and hotly debated “Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017” which is popularly known as the “Anti-Superstition Bill has finally been passed by the State Assembly by a voice vote.
It may be recalled here that this Anti-Superstition Bill was earlier cleared by the Karnataka Cabinet on September 27. The Bill has exempted stamping of mudras on the body which is a practice in the upper caste community (Madhwa Brahmins), but advertisements that offer miracle cures for diseases have been banned. The Bill bans “Vashikarna” which is an occult practice of subjugation and also bans performing Vashikarana or advertising about it.
Truly speaking, a Cabinet meeting which was presided over by Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah cleared the Bill to protect people against evil and sinister practices and to combat and eradicate inhuman, evil and sinister practices propagated/performed in the name of the “supernatural” or “black magic”. Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister TB Jayachandra told the media after the Cabinet meeting that the Bill proposes to ban ‘made snana’, which is practiced at Kukke Subrahmanya temple in Dakshina Kannada district in violation of human dignity.
Be it noted, Janata Dal (S) President HD Kumaraswamy requested that the Government ban the practice of conducting poojas in Government offices. He has a valid point. This will certainly minimize superstition to some extent and this is exactly what is the basic aim of the Anti-Superstition Bill that has been passed recently.
While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that performing any black magic, inhumane act and evil practices in search of treasure or bounty, tantric acts which include physical and sexual assault will be banned as per the Bill. Rituals of exorcism, assaulting people under the pretext of exorcism, misinformation and creating a panic-like situation under the pretext of ghosts and black magic comes under the purview of the Bill. Very rightly so!
It also gives me immense satisfaction to note that not everything is banned under this Anti-Superstition Bill. Any form of worship including pradakshine, yatra, parikrama at any religious shrines, harikatha, keerthana, pravachana, bhajans do not come under the purview of the Bill. It is also noteworthy that providing knowledge of ancient arts and practices, speaking about miracles performed by deceased saints and literature on them offering prayers, upasana, religious rituals at places of worship or at people’s homes, religious celebrations, festivals, processions, piercing of ears and nose, shaving of head, astrology and vaastu are considered acceptable under the Bill.
For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that among other things, it seeks to ban the controversial ‘made snana’ ritual (where devotees roll over plantain leaves with leftover food) in public/religious places. It primarily seeks to protect people against evil and sinister practices and combat inhuman and sinister practices propagated/performed in the name of “supernatural” or “black magic”. In all, 16 practices are banned under the legislation.
It needs no rocket scientist to conclude that organizing macabre and bizarre rituals, offering magical cures which is just not practically possible and threatening people with dire consequences as for instance incurring the peril of divine or supernatural displeasure are also covered by this law. It is very sad to note that some people are condemning it without even understanding it properly or knowing even the ABC of this highly commendable law which deserves to be implemented not just in Karnataka but all over the country as a whole. We all know how people are made fool by many of those who have made it their open loot in the name of God. So I am very happy to note that Karnataka Government has made some commendable effort to check this which has to be lauded without any “ifs” and “buts”.
It also must be appreciated that this Anti-Superstition Bill of Karnataka has tried to draw a distinction between religious traditions and superstitious practices. It has borrowed some features from Maharashtra’s law also against black magic and other evil practices. Those who term this Anti-Superstition Bill of Karnataka as violating the right to practice and propagate one’s religion under Article 25 of the Constitution are way off the mark because certainly reasonable restrictions can be placed on the right to practice and propagate one’s religion which under no circumstances can be “unfettered and unlimited”.
Truth be told, we all keep seeing for ourselves so many times reports of most bizarre rituals being carried out openly right under the nose of the administration without facing any restrictions whatsoever. It must be reiterated that among the rituals, this Anti Superstition Bill outlaws explicitly the ‘urulu seve’ which is also known as ‘made snana’, in which devotees roll over food leftovers, the irrational practice of walking on fire, branding children and piercing one’s tongue or cheeks, human sacrifices, pelting stones in the name of sorcery (banamathi, mata-mantra), claiming to perform surgery with fingers, or claiming to change the sex of foetus in the womb and worst of all, ‘betthale seve’, where women are paraded naked as also sexual exploitation by invoking supernatural powers. This is most shocking!
What is wrong in outlawing such not just irrational practices but also dangerous and harmful practices by which those practicing it are harming themselves the most as also their very own children whom they profess to love the most yet foolishly indulge in such bizarre practices which should have no place in any civilized society under any circumstances whatsoever as they are completely inhuman and most exploitative carried out by those who exploit innocent and illiterate people for their own petty vested interests? In other words, no time should be wasted by all states in emulating Karnataka’s worthy Anti-Superstition Bill so that millions of innocent people are saved from being duped, harmed and exploited in the worst possible manner! The earlier this is done, the better it shall be in the supreme interests of millions of ordinary people in the longer term who are very easily fooled by those running business in the name of superstition who must be jailed and penalized heavily so that it acts as a “potential deterrent” to refrain from indulging in such abhorrent practices!
On a concluding note, Karnataka State Government certainly deserves all the applauds and appreciation for having dared to bring in such a commendable Anti-Superstition Bill at the risk of antagonizing many illiterate voters who believe blindly in all such superstitions but this alone is not enough. All States must emulate it and further make more improvements wherever possible! It must be followed by many awareness campaigns so that people are educated properly on this score. Unless this is done on a war footing and on a mammoth scale just a tough law alone won’t act as a potential deterrent and people will continue to be fooled by those “spineless crooks” who believe in running their own shops at the expense of ordinary people!
By Sanjeev Sirohi