Home >Politics >Policy >Karnataka cabinet clears anti-black magic bill

Bengaluru: The Karnataka cabinet on Wednesday cleared a bill to check exploitation in the name of black magic , a move analysts said also helps chief minister Siddaramaiah cement his leadership of backward classes who are often victims of such practices.

The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill 2017 is the second such initiative in the country, after neighbouring Maharashtra passed the Black Magic Prevention and Prohibition of Exploiting Practices Bill in December 2013.

The bill aims to help “combat and eradicate other inhuman, evil sinister practices propagated in the name of so called supernatural or magical power or evil spirit commonly known as black magic by conmen with sinister motive of exploiting the common people in the society and thereby destroying the very social fabric of the society..."

It forbids practices which include persuading the performance of inhuman activities for any reason, assault on the pretext of ridding the person of spirits or ghosts, persuading others to parade naked, performing surgeries to change sex of the foetus, indulging in sexual activity in the guise of super natural powers, banning women or others from entering villages, inflicting injuries on oneself, or killing animals among other heinous acts.

Although the bill does specifically mention Made Snana —a practice in coastal Karnataka where people roll on the food left over by Brahmins—it forbids the facilitation of people rolling over the leaves of food left over by others as it violates human dignity.

The state will appoint a vigilance officer to take steps to prevent such practices.

Writers and rationalists alike had backed the new law. Rural Karnataka has witnessed crimes being committed by conmen in the guise of healing people of ailments or misfortune.

“Even though such legislation cannot totally get rid of superstitions in the society, it will go some way to prevent exploitation of the gullible people. Superstition can be eradicated from the society only by proper education and teaching the children to develop scientific temper and the spirit of enquiry from a young age itself," Narendra Nayak from the Federation of Indian Rationalists Association said on Wednesday.

Nayak said he and many others including slain senior journalist Gauri Lankesh had mooted the idea of such a bill in August 2013, the day after rationalist thinker Narendra Dabholkar was shot dead in Maharashtra.

“It is ironical that she (Lankesh) is not alive to see it become law," he said.

Maharashtra passed its own anti-superstition law four months after Dabholk’s murder.

Siddaramaiah has much to gain from the passing of such a bill.

Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and professor at the Karnatak university, Dharwad says that socially and economically backward classes—Siddaramaiah’s support base—is especially vulnerable to such practices. He adds that with the bill, Siddaramaiah has signalled that he is trying to rescue them from the clutches of practices dictated by (in many cases) upper castes.

“He is trying to give them leadership and tell them that these are things that are eating into your economy," Ramaswamy said while adding that Siddaramaiah is appealing to this section. The Karnataka chief minister, considered by many as a non-believer, had even made a trip to Chamrajnagar which was avoided by his predecessors, owing to a belief that any sitting chief minister would lose his chair if he visited this district.

With this, Siddaramaiah has also cornered the political opposition—It will either have to support the bill or remain quiet. The bill will be tabled in the winter session of the state legislature.

The bill has categories those that can be tolerated and those that need to be controlled or prohibited.

Vaastushastra and Astrology have not been impacted by the new bill as it is “advice". T.B.Jayachandra, state law minister clarified that Pradakshina, Yatras, Parikramas, performed at religious places will not be impacted.

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