Narendra Dhabolkar becomes a martyr. He had to pay his life as a price for the ordinance to see the light. The mindset of the killer is more condemnable indeed, particularly if the killer happens to be a Hindu, as it is unheard of a Hindu getting so disturbed over his religious beliefs and practices when being questioned on rational grounds.
Hindu groups are behind the killing?
As usual the media and celebrity columnists were quick to blame Hindu organisations, citing religious fanaticism for the killing. As of now the reports suggest that a caste group from Latur could be behind the killing, as Hamid and his followers encouraged inter- caste marriages in Latur inviting their wrath.
Is Catholic superstition acceptable?
On the other day in Bangalore, I watched the Hollywood release The Conjuring, directed by James Wan, a Chinese descent of Malaysian-born director. The movie was awful as predicted, with overload of catholic superstition. Superstition did not die with Exorcist, but thriving till date, thanks to the 'Splat Pack' team.
Why I am referring to this movie in particular is that, though it's a co incidence, such movies can easily get away under the present anti-black magic ordinance passed by the Maha Government. This is where Hindus are particularly agitated as it is aimed at curbing Hindus beliefs alone, but not of non-Hindus.
Opposing this legislation does not mean supporting superstition
Added to this, the situation is so tricky, now who ever oppose the anti black magic law,(the title doesn't reflect the whole concept) even on valid grounds, they will be quickly dubbed as a fundamentalist, and will be branded as supporters of black magic, agori practices etc. However certain provisions of the act are not only biased, but also can potentially target Hindu spiritual Gurus like Sai Baba's who are huge crowd pullers, with their supernatural demonstrations.
This Act is aimed at Hindus alone
The original draft prepared by Dhabokar himself, was later revised by Shyam Manav (2005) was titled "Maharashtra Eradication of Black Magic and Evil and Aghori Practices Act, 2005.
In the original draft, certain practices like aghori, jaran-maran, buvabaaji, devi mata, and some words like mantra etc were used, but later in the amended one all these phrases were removed due to huge protests from Hindu groups.
Let's quickly look in to the definition and schedule appended to the Act
The definition includes;
"practice by a person or through another by claiming to possess supernatural powers or divine powers or power of the spirit for treatment or for curing or for healing physical and mental ailments thereby causing material or financial loss to a human being.
Note : Strangely other practices such as Voodoo, Wicca, Tarot card reading, Reiki , miracle cures offered by Christian Missionaries etc were not included. Also this clause include only "for treatment of, or curing but does not cover "conversion' of faith. It ought to have been continued with "thereby converting gullible people from their original faith to other faiths"
This is where Hindus cry foul.
The Schedule :
Note: 3), 4), 5), 6) 8) 9) & 10) not discussed as no dispute with these.
1) Under the pretext of expelling the ghost, assaulting by tying a person with rope or chain, beating by stick or whip, to make the person drink footwear soaked water, giving chili smoke, hanging a person to the roof, fixing him with rope or by hair or plucking his hair causing pain by way of touching heated object to organs or body of a person, forcing a person to perform a sexual act in the open, practising aghori acts putting urine or human excretion forcibly in the mouth of a person.
Note : No issue
2) Display of so called miracles by a person and thereby earning money and to deceive, defraud and terrorise people by propagation and circulation of so called miracles.
Note: Only ‘earning money' included, but not "conversion of faith'. This is where exactly Christian Missionaries, and their public healing prayers, public demonstration of miracles etc can escape the dragnet of this law.
7) To create an impression by declaring that a divine spirit has influenced one's body or that a person has possessed such divine spirit and thereby create fear in the mind of others or to threaten others of evil consequences for not following the advice of such person.
Note : Even this clause does not appear to be applicable to Missionaries activities such a healing prayers etc. This talks about divine spirit, not evil (satan) spirit.
How this legislation is flawed?
The very opening definition, ought to have included suitable phrases to imply that the act intend to apply to all religious groups including tribal, aboriginals. The previous draft contained this inclusive definition but later the same was removed.
Now the amended draft discusses certain practices which are prevalent among some groups of Hindus alone. The Christian missionaries open public prayers, healing prayers; demonstration of magical cures on stage, would get excluded from this definition of Black Magic.
It does not cover exhibition of feature films portraying superstitions. Why this is excluded? Though films are subject to Censor Boards certification, unless this is included in the act, even CBFC can't curb such films.
So feature films, TV serials, Print media ads, online ads regarding propagating such magical cures were not specifically included in the act. The fear may be, if done, certain channels exclusively devoted and run by Missionaries may face trouble?
Law enforcing Constable can now even question Sri Sri Ravishankar
A police constable or an SI can enter now an Ashram run by for example Sri Sri Ravishankar, Shankaracharya s of Shankara Mutts and question their wisdom, and belief in super powers and their practices inside Ashrams.
If Puttaparthy Sai Baba were to be alive, he could not have probably demonstrated his supernatural powers in Maharashtra, under this legislation, but Benny Hinn , Paul Dinakaran, Zakir Nayak and the likes can still continue their mission.
Once a prosecution is launched against any Hindu, Christian or Muslim saints under this law, the holy books and beliefs will be a subject matter of arguments in the courts before an ordinary Magistrate, Lawyers, and Police force, disregarding the stature of spiritual Gurus.
Under our Constitution
Any legislation should include every section of the society if its objective is, eradication of superstition, but cannot exclude certain sections, and target only the Majority. Otherwise the very meaning of Secularism is defeated.
[The writer is a writer, blogger and activist of Citizens for True Secularism]