Written by Dr Narendra Dabholkar
Our country is steeped in superstition. We imbibe too many dos and don’ts since our childhood, almost all of them irrational and we are not even aware of it. We get up in the morning thinking of what day it is. If it happens to be a Saturday, we are expected not to start any new, good project for it will certainly prove a failure; if it is a Sunday women should not wash their hair as this act will lead to their brother’s death; Tuesday is a day when new garments if worn for the first time catch fire because Tuesday (Mangalwar) is named after the Planet Mars that is a fiery planet and so on and so forth. For doing any thing we have to find out an auspicious moment and wait for it. For every little thing we are ready to surrender to God and accept His Will. As if all this is not enough we need Babas, Gurus. Buvas, Matajis, Devijis to intervene between us and the Almighty as far as Hindus are concerned. The other religionists too have their own intermediaries of this type to tell them what they should or shouldn’t do. Pujaris, Priests, Maulavis and such other parasites are ever ready to help us through this arduous journey of life. We are so enamored of these godmen and their supernatural powers as well as their sweet soothing tongue that we gladly loose our ability to think and judge and question. This is about you and me, the common people.
Men in Power
But what about those who are in power, those who are responsible for shaping and cultivating our youth, our younger generations, the future of our nation? Our erstwhile Rashtrapati visited all the live deities that never fail their devotees to take a vow that he would visit them again on being elected President of India and religiously visited them again to fulfill his vows; of course with all the entourage of a Rashtrapati. Our ministers attend the birthday celebrations of many Babas and Buvas who claim to possess supernatural powers, that as some people say is very useful for money laundering and such other essential activities! One can quote innumerable examples of these great and powerful peoples’ superstitious behaviors. Now about those who are shaping the pillars of our society’s future.
Our universities, thankfully not all of them, have introduced a new subject-Astrology- mind you, not Astronomy, at the post graduate level. Attempts were made to introduce a novel subject, viz., Paurohitya in the University, the grand objective being the spread of our ancient Vedic culture and traditions and of course the ancient rituals all over the world. Vedic Mathematics, Vastushastra are in waiting to acquire a place in the annals of university education. Other obscure subjects like Reki, Transcendental meditation, Art of living and a number of Yogic therapies are gaining importance to day. It is not possible to deal with each of these fads separately but let us take the example of the ubiquitous Vastyshastra.
As the very name implies it is a science of building. As per the claims of the Vastushastris, their fantastic remedial changes in buildings, small and big, guarantee these Vastushastra buffs all health, wealth and happiness. Many eminent scientists and technocrats, industrialists and businessmen, psychiatrists and surgeons, engineers and even architects themselves fall pray to this dubious science. They make many impractical and at times dangerous structural changes in their office buildings, industrial edifices and workshops, hotels and dwellings and what not, expecting that these changes will make them happy ever after. Those who are able to taste success, obviously because of their acumen, expertise and hard work, talk loudly about the efficacy of the ancient science. Those who don’t, keep quiet because it’s not the science of Vastu that is to be blamed but the imperfect or half hearted following of it is what brought them misery. Quite a few buildings, it is said, are dangerously damaged because of the changes made according to the requirements of Vastushastra; leave alone the unnecessary expenses and inconveniences caused because of the changes.
This whole lot of rich and powerful does not include our literary luminaries. They are not behind any of these eminent people in acquiescing with superstitious and irrational practices in the name of tradition. One has only to recollect the way the president of the Sahitya Sammelan defended the sacrifice of a buffalo for the success of the Sammelan without any untoward happenings. Can we then blame the ignorant, superstitious poor people who sacrifice laks of goats for appeasing their deities during the Jatras. I must mention here that in the recent Mandhar Devi Jatra goat sacrifice was banned, thanks to Maharashtra Government that finally woke up after the ghastly incident of the previous year when too many lives were lost.
We have entered the 21st century with a lot of pomp and show. We have successfully sent satellites in space and improved our communication facilities tremendously due to TV and innumerable channels of entertainment and news, weather forecasting, mobile telephones and what not. We have indigenously developed our own missiles and even nuclear weapons making us independent as far as the defense of our country is concerned. We have constructed big highways and small roads reaching many small towns and villages. We use tractors and fertilizers and hybrid seeds in our agriculture. We have most talented doctors and engineers, Technocrats and management experts, economists and entrepreneurs in our country. In the field of ET, great countries like USA are alarmed at our progress. The list can grow ad infinitum. But with all this advancement we also believe in all sorts of miracles. We believe that the Baba can obtain things from thin air by just waving his hands. He is able to bless his rich and powerful devotees gold chains, diamond rings and expensive Swiss watches. We believe that there are Christian missionaries endowed with supernatural powers to make a lame person walk, to make the deaf and dumb to hear and talk and to make a blind man see clearly. We still believe that persons with supernatural powers can operate and remove cancerous growths from a person’s body solely with their blessed fingers without any instruments or anesthesia. That we believe in such things and encourage their perpetrators even though we are capable of much scientific and technological advancement is the greatest miracle! I believe this is the reason why India is still a backward country. Instead of looking forward we still look into our ‘glorious past’ for support and sanction for any action. What are the reasons for this state of affairs?
Bill on Eradication of Black Magic and Evil Practices
Now let us turn to the bill ‘The Maharashtra Eradication of Black Magic and Evil Practices and Customs Act 2005’ that was recently passed in the legislative assembly banning harmful superstitious practices. The bill seeks to prohibit practice, promotion and propagation of Black Magic. A comprehensive definition of the term ‘practice of Black Magic’ contains the evil practices, customs, etc., and also the unauthorized and illegal practice of medicine or healing or curing by quacks, conmen and the so called godmen. Such practice is being made an offence under this act and to serve as a deterrent it is proposed to provide for a stringent penalty and punishment, making such a practice a cognizable and non-bailable offence.
The Bill also provides for the appointment of vigilance officers to detect and prevent such offences and collect evidence against the offenders. This will help to prosecute the offenders effectively. It provides for recognition of Social Organizations that are committed to social cause. They are expected to help achieve eradication of these evil practices and implementation of the provisions of law.
It empowers the court to convict and punish a person for committing an offence under this law.
Many people believe that making a law cannot eradicate blind faith and the exploitation of the poor and ignorant. What we need is awakening, education and economic well being of the people. No doubt, we need all this and many social organizations are creating awareness among the poor people and helping them to help themselves. But, you will surely agree with me that this is a long drawn process and gives respite to the unscrupulous conmen till people eventually become aware. Till then the conmen merrily go on with their nefarious activities. A law to stop these mal-practices and to bring the culprits to book will certainly accelerate the process of educating the people and creating awareness among them. It will also give teeth to organizations that are fighting superstition.
Dr Narendra Dabholkar