Black Magic Act

Maharashtra and Anti-Superstition Law

Manas Joardar

Maharashtra may claim special applause for being the first among all Indian states to promulgate a somewhat elaborate set of notable laws to restrict much talked about superstitious activities practised unquestionably almost everywhere in the country. The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013, also known as Anti-superstition Or Black Magic Bill came into force there from August, 2013.

Exorcism, witchcraft, occultism, human sacrifice and many such inhuman activities have been in use in India and many other countries since pre-historic era. During old days, people knowing little of natural sciences assumed various evil forces responsible for all human sufferings and developed a score of tricks—natural and supernatural—for the relief. Lot of techniques for fore-telling the fate of a man or woman were also devised. Members of the solar system, very imperfectly known at that time, were considered mostly responsible for creating a man's fate. Spiritual activities and wearing of stones were taken recourse to, to satisfy a dissatisfied 'planet' propagating harmful rays. Knowledge of astronomical science advanced substantially through ages though, old astrological concept disagreed to accept them. Modern science has conclusively established that it is solar radiation only that has a predominant influence on all living beings. That from others is too insignificant. Precision scientific investigation could not establish that wearing of stones can, in any way, influence the prospect of a human being. Still publicity for sale of various types of 'stones' for each planet prescribed in traditional astrology , many of which have been discarded by modern science, is on the rise.

Similar is the case with other anti-scientific astrological practices long left out by modern science. Propagandist hyperboles galore. News media and TV channels backed by vested interests are promoting them all for their own ends. Innumerable 'God men' and 'renowned scientists', are also very much in the fray.

Big claims made regularly through costly and colourful advertisements displayed in well circulated national dailies attract people in a big way. One such example—" The unique combination of Panchadhatu (alloy of 5 metals) empowers you with positive energy which builds relationships and helps you nurture them also brings you health, wealth and happiness..." Money Back Guarantee promised along with, has been an added allurement to the general public.

Website of the Company (www.zodiac projects the Director as a big scientist. Available inside the website, the Director, in reply to a question, announces: "I have recently been honoured with Doctorate in Astronomy from Los Angeles' Rochville University in the year 2004. The same University had earlier conferred a Master’s degree in Astrology, face reading and metallic powers. Such recognition gives me more encouragement to make millions of people happy the world over because of Zodiac Power Rings."

People are sure to be overwhelmed with the astonishing scholasticism of a great scientist having been conferred a Doctorate in Astronomy together with a Master's degree in Astrology by an American University. Little wcnder, people get highly enthralled to rush in.

Maybe, the degrees talked of are all genuine. But all degrees stated to have been offered from US universities may not be so. Let us hear what the team has to say about one such university:"Chester Ludlow, a pug dog from Vermont, has been awarded an online MBA degree (master's in business administration) by Rochville University-an online college that offers life and work experience degrees.

Chester is believed to be the first dog to be awarded an online master's degree based on work and life experience credentials. But did he earn it-or did he buy it?

"The difference between earning a college degree online or buying one is key," says Vicky Phillips, founder of Get Chester is the Get mascot. In May, he submitted his resume-along with $499-to Rochville University online. A week later, on June 5, 2009, an express packet arrived from a post office box in Dubai, Rochville University kept its word. The dog had an instant, fast degree. Also, a cheap online MBA degree considering he paid only $499 whereas the average cost of a real distance MBA degree in the US is close to $25,000.

Rochville University is one of scores of online universities operating from foreign post office boxes that advertise cheap, fast degrees online-for a flat fee. The university claims accreditation by the "Board of Online Universities Accreditation" and the "Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation."

...Neither of these agencies is recognized as a college accreditor by the US Department of Education or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation." (Pug Dog Earns Online MBA in Rochville University Scam

In 1989 Dr Narendra Dabholkar founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS)—an organisation where activists travelled extensively and endeavoured in exposing, specially among the rural Maharasntra people, the futile tricks and charlatans practised by the quacks, conmen, black magicians and others. The team was somewhat successful in making people understand that little miracle worked behind the much publicised supernatural activities of the ‘God-men’. Exorcism, witchcraft, occultism, human sacrifice etc are all very inhuman. Similarly, alchemy, astrology, tantra and the likes can bring about no meaningful relief to the victims at all. During such practice, sexual exploitation of female victims is also quite common. All this causes alarming mental, physical and financial hardship among those involved. Demand was therefore raised from a large section of people under the leadership of MANS to stop superstitious activities. Indomitable Dr Dabholkar ignored all threats and moved on. He received invaluable support from an outstanding Physicist of international repute Prof Jayant Vishnu Narlikar.

Dr Dabholkar's team had drafted the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Bill over a decade ago. In the Statement of Objects and Reason, the organisers warn of "an alarming number of incidences of causing mental, physical md financial harm... [which] are threatening to seriously damage the social fibre and faith of the common people in authentic and scientific medical remedies and driving them to take recourse to such quacks, conmen and black magicians."

A few days before his death, Dr Dabholkar had complained in a press conference that the bill had not been discussed despite being tabled in seven sessions of the state assembly. The Government had however, issued an Ordinance on Anti-Black Magic and Superstitions just four days after the assassination of Dr Dabholkar during his morning walk on August 20, 2013. The final Act, after amendments—setting aside many a positive proposition—was formally approved a couple of months thereafter. The BJP-Shiv Sena MLAs opposed many of the provisions of the original Bill on the plea that those might hurt religious belief.

The Act seeks to identify practices related to black magic, human sacrifice, use of magic-remedies to cure ailments and other such acts which exploit people's superstitions and codify them as criminal offence.

A few such provisions :
l    Under the pretext of removing a bhoot (ghost) from a person's body, no physical /mental torture would be allowed.
l    Financial profits cannot be made by cheating and terrorising people through display of so-called miracles.
l    Not to create a feeling of fear by giving an impression of having supernatural power.
l    Not to have sex with a woman yearning for a child claiming to make her pregnant with supernatural powers.
l    Not to claim to change the sex of the foetus in the womb by inserting fingers.
l    Not to have a procession of a naked woman saying she is a witch or restrict her routine.
l    Not to prevent medical aid claiming to cure a person bitten by snake, dog or scorpion by chanting mantras or by tying threads or similar things.

If found guilty, the offender would be liable to imprisonment ranging from six months to seven years and a fine between Rs 5,000 and Rs 50,000. The offences are all non-bailable.

Since enforcement of the Ordinance on August 24 2013, more than 40 cases were recorded within six months. People charged and arrested do not belong to the Hindu community only. There are, goes the report, Muslims and Buddhists too. For many cases of molestation and sexual harassment of women that happened during this short span, 'Godmen' are reportedly the major suspect.

In the world of astronomical sciences, the geocentric theory of planetary motion has long been replaced by the heliocentric one. But astrology practitioners remain unmoved. The model, in one form or the other, is quite popular too all over the world of astrology. Prof Narlikar is of opinion that advancement of science is advancing superstition. He points out—application of computer in astrology and vastushastra, neither being science-based, makes them so. With time what has improved substantially is scientific knowledge but not scientific temper.

Advancement of science and technology is helping revivalism of the blind beliefs and superstitions in the Indian society—he feels. Hand in glove is precisely the process how science and obscurantism are going forward. Is it what science is expected to thrive for?

Dr Dabholkar had to sacrifice his life to introduce an anti-superstition law, albeit not up to his satisfaction, for Maharashtra. Nobody knows what would happen to it eventually. Enactment followed by stern enforcement of a strict law for the entire country is urgently in order. Dr Narlikar has more hopes in the younger generation. Rightly so. Effort for development of a scientific temper is not encouraging. It is too much to expect that media and those controlling them, would play a conscious role in moulding public opinion.

Vol. 47, No.11-14, Sep 21 - Oct 18 2014