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Friday, July 19, 2024

The Looming Threat: Superstition and Black Magic Gripping India!

India, with its rich cultural diversity, embodies the phrase “Unity in Diversity,” showcasing myriad cultures, traditions, religions, and castes across its 28 states. Despite distinctions, India thrives on pluralism, promoting tolerance and celebrating its multifaceted heritage. The Constitution emphasizes equality and pluralism, fostering harmonious coexistence through cultural exchange and inclusive policies.

However, superstition, belief in the supernatural, and practices like black magic are deeply ingrained in Indian culture, influenced by religious beliefs, cultural traditions, and folklore. These elements shape daily life, from astrology to rituals based on auspicious and inauspicious days. While modernization and education have led to skepticism, these beliefs continue to hold sway in many parts of the country, reflecting a complex cultural heritage.

While education plays a vital role in eradicating such practices, there’s a legal responsibility to tackle the pervasive use of black magic. Certain customs and rituals performed in the name of religion might be viewed as religious manifestations, necessitating legislation to delineate the boundary between faith and superstition.

Permitting the unchecked persistence of such practices infringes upon individuals’ fundamental rights to equality and life guaranteed by Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Without initiatives to combat superstitions, unscientific and irrational practices like faith healing, quackery, and dissemination of misleading medical information can proliferate, posing significant risks to public order and citizens’ health.

The concept of an Anti-Superstition Bill exists in India but has not been enacted into law yet. Although there is currently no nationwide legislation specifically addressing superstitious practices, black magic, or human sacrifice in India, certain sections of the Indian Penal Code impose penalties for such incidents. For instance, Section 302 (punishment for murder) addresses human sacrifice, albeit after the act of murder has occurred. Similarly, Section 295A (Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) aims to deter such practices. Additionally, Article 51A (h) of the Indian Constitution mandates Indian citizens to promote scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform. Provisions within the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act of 1954 also aim to combat the harmful effects of various superstitious activities prevalent in India.

Bihar emerged as a pioneer in enacting the Prevention of Witch Practices Act in 1999, targeting witchcraft and inhumane rituals. Maharashtra followed suit in 2013 with the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil, and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, banning human sacrifice and addressing claims of supernatural powers by ‘godmen’. Similarly, Karnataka introduced the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act in 2017, targeting a wide range of “inhumane” practices associated with religious rituals and imposing penalties for spreading misinformation and inducing panic related to ghosts or black magic.

Since 2006, Kerala has made efforts to pass legislation against superstitions. The first attempt was made during 2006-2011 but was unsuccessful. Another attempt was made in 2014 with the drafting of ‘The Kerala Exploitation by Superstition (Prevention) Act 2014’, prescribing imprisonment for those causing harm through supernatural or black magic acts. However, this law remained unenacted. In 2019, the Kerala Law Reforms Commission proposed the ‘Kerala Prevention of Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices, Sorcery and Black Magic Bill 2019’, which also didn’t materialize. Despite a 2021 attempt to introduce a bill to eradicate superstitious practices, government consent was not obtained, leaving Kerala without a comprehensive law addressing superstitions.

In 2021, a woman in Palakkad committed the gruesome act of human sacrifice by slitting the throat of her six-year-old son, claiming it was for the pleasure of God. Similarly, in March 2019, Thushara, weighing only 20 kg, was killed by her husband and mother-in-law, who practiced black magic and subjected her to extreme starvation. In August 2018, occult practitioner Krishnan and his family were murdered by his assistant, who believed Krishnan’s powers hindered his success. The state of Kerala was shocked by the alleged human sacrifice of two women, Roselyn and Padmam, in Elanthoor, Pathanamthitta in 2022. The accused, including a medic couple and Muhammad Shafi, the mastermind, are in custody, with one accused admitting to consuming the victims’ flesh to “preserve youth” as instructed by Shafi. Additionally, the mysterious deaths of a doctor couple from Kottayam and a missing teacher from Thiruvananthapuram in Arunachal Pradesh in April 2024 have raised suspicions of involvement with black magic, as they were found to have searched for “life after death” online.

Despite Kerala’s vibrant cultural diversity, the menace of occultism persists, overshadowing the state. Regrettably, efforts to address the societal dangers posed by black magic and superstitions have stagnated. Recent tragic events underscore the urgent necessity for effective legal action to counter these entrenched beliefs. India, with its diverse population and beliefs, has witnessed a surge in cases of exploitation due to practices like black magic, superstitions, and evil spirits. This has caused significant harm to people mentally, physically, and financially. Urgent and stringent social and legal measures are needed to curb these harmful practices and protect the common people from the deceitful actions of quacks and conmen. These activities threaten to damage the social fabric and erode trust in authentic and scientific medical treatments, pushing people towards seeking help from unscrupulous individuals. It is important to acknowledge that introducing legislation to address this social issue is only the beginning, as true progress will require raising awareness among the public through informative campaigns and enlisting the support of community and religious leaders to dispel the myths associated with such practices.

Meera Menon

Advocate, High Court of Kerala



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