The so-called Anti-Superstition Bill has many inconsistencies and is wrought with prejudice against the Hindus
Prasanth Vaidyaraj from Bengaluru
The Karnataka Cabinet on September 27 cleared the Anti-Superstition Bill to prevent and eradicate “inhuman evil practices” and said it would table it during the winter session for approval. The winter session was scheduled to begin on November 13. The legislation was earlier proposed as The Evil, Inhuman and Superstitious Practices Prevention Bill. The word superstitious was omitted and is now titled The Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017.
The practices which have been included under the ‘schedule’ for prohibition are–performing any inhuman, evil act and black magic in search of precious things, bounty and hidden treasures. Other practices listed under 16 points for prohibition, include facilitating any person to roll over leaves of leftover food by other persons in any public or religious places or similar practices that violate human dignity, a practice known as Madde Snana. Forcing any person to carry on evil practices such as killing of an animal by biting its neck and coercing any person or persons to perform 'fire walk' at the time of ‘jatras’ (temple/village fest) and religious festivals have also been included. Though the bill does not include Astrology and Vastushastra, it has been included under the ‘Advices’ section and left open for future consideration.
The opposition to the bill expressed from various quarters is primarily due to the rationale behind the idea of such a bill. The bill smacks of colonial prejudices and well-known hatred of Marxists and anti-Hindu intellectuals. It is also evident that the bill targets Hindu practices alone and totally neglects anti-social practices of Christians or Muslims.
Why Oppose the Bill?
CM Siddaramaiah, who considers himself a rationalist, is accused of catering to the whims and fancies of the coterie of so-called ‘buddhi jeevis’, rationalists and Hindu-hating intellectuals that surround him. The Government was under pressure from this coterie and civil society groups to bring in an Anti-Superstition Bill after the deplorable murder of writer MM Kalburgi. Hitherto, there has been no demand for such a bill from any of the elected representatives of any party and in fact many within the Congress have questioned the need for the same. The way the bill is drafted without comprehensive study or consultation lays bare the intent of the government which is to pander to the ideological buddies and elites close to the Chief Minister.
A Result of Colonial Prejudice
The antecedents for demand of such a bill have its root in colonial Europe and the colonial consciousness that pervades our academia and media even today. The French revolution in the 18th century resulted in the tussle for power between the Roman Catholic Church and the state. The age of enlightenment that preceded the revolution in France, was instrumental in creating awareness about the absolute control of the Church and demanded the separation of the Church and state and curtailing the powers of the Church thereof. The European rationalists were the product of this age of enlightenment and anti-religious rationalists have since been critical of the Church and its dogmatic practices. Unfortunately, self-styled rationalists in India modeled themselves on the European construct of rationalism instead of our own age-old tradition of inquest. As did the British and the evangelists, rationalists categorised Hindutva as a religion and Hindu practices as dogmatic. The next logical step for them was to deem any ‘unexplained’ practices to be banned.
Another source of hatred towards native practices can be found in the 16th century practice of ‘burning of witches’ mandated by the Catholic Church. While anti-Paganism has been a component of the Church, a notorious manual ‘Malleus Maleficarum’, a treatise on witchcraft authored by a clergyman endorsed extermination of witches and laid out the legal and theological reasons to do the same. A papal bull (Church decree) institutionalised the manual and sorcery, witchcraft and pagan practices, seen as acts of Satan, were prohibited in Europe. The European construct of the Church and the State which was falsely imported into India by the British and propagated later by the Marxists academicians see native customs and practices in the same light. The demand for similar actions stems from the colonial prejudices that pervades large sections of our academics and media.
Effect on Rural customs
Any inhuman practice that negatively affects lives of people has to be curtailed. However, in its zeal to bring in a ‘anti-superstition’ bill, the Karnataka Government has not conducted a holistic study of many local customs and rituals. Many customs have had positive effects on people with psychosomatic disorders and the spiritual dimension to many practices have had constructive effects on local societies. Blanket ban of their age-old customs would create a void in such societies and such a vacuum would likely be filled with modern anti-social habits like alcoholism, social deviance, criminality and also result in psychological disorders which had local solutions earlier.
Exclusion of non-Hindu religions
Yet another point which raises suspicions against such a bill is abject neglect of inhuman and anti-social practices of Christianity and Islam. The bill has no mandate against Christian evangelical miracle healers who have hoodwinked and continue to dupe gullible people. A Government which hesitates to bring in an Anti-Conversion Bill for the fear of backlash from the Church, is quick enough to attack the Hindus and their practices. It is a known fact that the first step to conversion is the use of miracle healing by the evangelists on poor and backward communities.
Same is the case of self-flagellation by Muslims during Muharram which has not caught the attention of the drafters of this bill. The State which regulates the height of a ‘Dahi Handa’ pyramid or sees pollution only during Deepavali, is blind to practices like Talwar Zani and Zanjeer Zani which use swords and chain with blades to harm their bodies and result in lot of blood and gore during Muharram. While the bill attempts to regulate animal sacrifice in Hindu rituals, it is absolutely silent on the slaughtering of animals during Bakrid and other Islamic holy days.
In conclusion, the so-called Anti-Superstition Bill has many inconsistencies and is wrought with prejudice against one set of practices. The Hindu society is mature enough to wean away from practices which have no practical use and history has numerous such examples. A state mandate for the same is uncalled for. Criminalisation of a set of practices without holistic study smacks of bias of the government which aims to cater to the whims of an ‘unelectable’ coterie. n