Seven men, who were trying to bury a 7-year-old boy alive, were arrested by Mysuru police, on 7 November. These men had kidnapped the child and planned to bury him alive, on the instructions of a black magician, who alleged that the human sacrifice would reveal the location of a secret treasure. In March 2017, a 10-year-old girl was sacrificed in Magadi, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, to cure a paralysed man.
While these are extreme cases of superstitious practices, there are practices like throwing children from heights, parading women naked, dragging chariots with chains hooked to the body and ostracizing families citing evil possession, that continue to exist in Karnataka.
A bill, which would put an end to these evil practices has been passed by the Karnataka assembly, on Thursday, 16 November. The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill 2017, will be a reality subject to the approval of the legislative council and the Governor.
What is the Anti-Superstition Bill?
The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017 was framed 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.
The initial draft of the anti-superstition Bill was prepared by experts at the National Law School University India, in Bengaluru. The draft was later handed over to an expert committee formed by the government and the first form of the current bill emerged.
While the Maharashtra Act doesn’t specify the superstitious practices, the Karnataka Bill lists 23 practices as superstitious.
The Bill was placed before the Karnataka Assembly in 2016. However, it was not passed. There were many who voiced their opposition to the Bill, even within the ruling Congress party.
In 2017, a watered down version of Bill was introduced in the assembly. To the surprise of many, it was passed on Thursday.
Which Practices Have Been Recommended for the Ban?
- Human sacrifice
- Fire walks
- Piercing rods through human body
- Parading women naked
- Performances claiming possession of a higher power
- Performing black magic for finding hidden treasures
- Preventing individuals from taking medical treatment and diverting them to black magic
- Attack or causing injury in the name of removing evil or ghost from someone’s body
- Attacking people with sticks or whips in the name of removing evil
- Tying or chaining people alleging evil procession
- Making people drink footwear-soaked water
- Putting urine and excreta in people’s mouth.
- Animal sacrifice or causing harm to animals (biting their neck) in the name of rituals
- Creating the illusion of summoning evil and ghost
- Claiming to change the sex of a foetus in a woman’s womb
- Rituals that involve self-inflicted injuries such as hanging from a hook inserted into the body
- Pulling a chariot by hook inserted into the body
- Throwing children on thorns or from heights or branding them with heated objects
- Segregation of menstruating or pregnant women
- Rolling on left-over food
Which Practices Have Not Been Recommended For the Ban?
- Vastu sastra
- Astrology programmes predicting future on TV
- Teaching and propagation of ancient art practices
- Propagating alleged miracles performed by saints
- Prayers at religious places, which doesn’t cause physical injury
- Muharram procession
- Piercing children’s nose and ears as part of religious ceremonies.
Will the Bill Honour MM Kalburgi?
MM Kalburgi, the scholar and the former Vice Chancellor of Hampi University, who was shot dead on 30 August 2015 was one of the strongest supporters of the Bill. Since 2013, when the Bill was first introduced by the NLSIU, he had been battling for it to be passed in Karnataka.
In 2015, after he was shot dead, a group of writers together with family members of Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare – rationalists who were also killed in a similar fashion – approached the Karnataka government to pass the Bill. They asked the government to name the Bill after Kalburgi, to honour his efforts to eradicate the superstitious practices in the state.
Senior government sources said the decision on naming it after Kalburgi would happen only after the Governor’s nod for the Bill.
Addtionally, in an interview given to the The Quint, five days before her death, Gauri Lankesh had expressed her concerns over misinformation on the Bill stalling this important legislation. She had pointed out that those opposing the bill have been propagating that astrology and vastu sastra would be banned under the law, but it was not true.
Why Was the Bill Opposed?
The major opposition to the Bill has been from BJP, which called the Bill ‘anti-Hindu’. Alleging that the Bill attempted to hurt sentiments of the Hindu community, BJP had opposed the Bill when it was introduced in 2016.
However, more than BJP, trouble for Siddaramaiah government comes from the party, as there are several congress leaders, who had expressed their concerns about the Bill hurting the religious sentiments of the Hindu community.
Despite the opposition, the government is going ahead with the Bill, as commitment to the rationalists in the state.
The passing of the bill in the assembly on 16 November, despite the opposition from within, has come as a surprise to many.
What Next After Assembly Approval?
Although passing the Bill in the legislative assembly was a big hurdle, it still has to go to the legislative council, where the bill will be debated again. At legislative council, the bill could be either passed or sent back to assembly for changes. If the Bill is passed by council, it will go to the Karnataka Governor for his approval, following which it will get its legal status.