The cabinet approved a bill that’s very similar to the 2013 Act passed by the Maharashtra government. The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017 was four years in the making (1).
The Vote Against Superstition
The next step is for it to be presented for vote by the assembly during the November session. Some of the practices banned by the bill include:
- Assaulting a person on the pretext of exorcism.
- Claiming to change the sex of a fetus in the womb.
- Claims of performing surgery with only fingers (known as finger surgery).
- Bettale seve’, worship ceremony done in the nude, mostly women during the Chandragutti annual jathre (festival) (2).
- ‘Urulu seve’ practice of forcing people to roll over on leaves with leftover food. The temple ritual of Made Made Sana is a communal meal served to the Brahmins using plantain leaves for plates. Afterwards, the “lower castes” must roll on the leaf plates of uneaten food.
- ‘Sidi’ hanging people in trees from “hooks drilled into their backs”
Superstition Deleted from Bill
The original drafts of the bill used the word ‘superstition’; in the title. The approved bill no longer does. Another important word/section edited from the previous drafts is Vaastu. This practice is exempt from the ban.
Vaastu is often called the India Feng Shuai. Vaastu addresses sacred spaces and its relationship to design systems. It’s practical application, like Feng shut, utilizes theories of elements, compass directions and how these can be incorporated in homes, offices and other spaces where humans work and live. Predating feng shut by 1,500 years, it’s widely believed to have birthed feng shui and other systems.
This practice isn’t considered harmful. In fact, it is believed to have positive auspicious benefits and results for its practitioners.
Push to Ban Certain Religious Ritual Practices
The real push to get this bill passed came in 2015 when M.M. Kalburg (77) was killed. Two gunmen broke into the Indian rationalist scholar’s home and murdered him. The college professor was outspoken about many of the religious superstitions and called idol worshipping a “meaningless ritual”.
Kalburg wasn’t the only critic of superstitious practices to be murdered. In 2013, a former doctor, Narendra Dabholkar, campaigned for banning such practices and was shot and killed while on a morning walk (4).
Some of the religious practices named in the bill are harmful, dangerous and cruel. Among these include witchcraft and black magic rituals (5). A list of some of the banned rituals and practices include:
- Performance of “any inhuman, evil act or black magic to search precious things, hidden treasure or a bounty in the name of Banamathi.”
- Prohibits “assaulting any person, parading him/her naked and to stop his daily activities and encourage him to commit such inhuman acts.”
- Exorcising ghosts. This is often accomplished by assaulting the person using a chain or rope and sometimes with a stick. The person is usually forced to drink water from a shoe. Other practices include forcing the person to eat feces or drink urine.
- Bans “invocation of ghosts, spirits or mantras” which make people frightened and scared.
- Bans abhor Acts of taking medical treatments from Aghori babas and the Aghori acts. These include any “inhuman evil practice or the ones offered”.
- Gaavu, a practice that forces a person “to kill an animal by biting its neck.”
- Baibiga is the “cruel practice of piercing rods from one side of jaw to another side.” This practice also “includes the tongue.” The belief behind this ritual is that God enters the person through the piercing and thereby gives protection against evil.
- Mata Mantra and Gandra Dora are practices that sidestep modern medicine in favor of these rituals, for such things as a “snake bite or a dog bite.” Instead of taking medicine, the person drinks “three palms full of water and get his forehead pressed three times while chanting the mata mantra.”
- Fire-walking is banned. An example given is that of a 65-year-old man who fell into burning coal embers and suffered serious burns.
- No Pelting of Stones on Houses: This practice is usually done “in the name of Banamathi, mata-mantra and other rituals.”
- To Relieve a Body of Evil Spirit or To Use Such a Person as a Pawn.” This bans anyone from “creating an impression that a body is possessed by some inapprehensible power.” And, prohibits threatened the person if they don’t follow the advice of the black magicians or person something will befall the person.
- No Inequality with Menstruating Women: This bans the practice of forcing women into isolation when they menstruate. “Women in such cases are subjected to inhuman and humiliating practices, such as ‘bettale seve’.”
- No More Self-Inflicted Injury: Cruel practices, such as people hooking themselves to a rope that is then pulled by a chariot in order to hang themselves are banned.
- Throwing children into thorns or from a height after branding them from heated
Many Rituals Left Intact
While the bill bans most of the rituals considered cruel and inhuman, there are still may superstitious practices and rituals that remain untouched. Some people believe this bill is only a first step in the right direction with more rituals needing to be banned.