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Recent incidents of killings in the name of superstition show the dark side of India's progressive society. And all is being done in the name of bringing peace, harmony and prosperity to those involved.
When all efforts fail to keep hope alive and life on a steady keel, then a large number of people in India still turn to black magic and superstitious practices for quick-fix solutions.
The so-called curators, known as ‘Tantrik', or ‘Baba' (occult and black magic practitioners), claim to be able to resolve issues of marital discord, or health and financial problems. Not only do the poor or uneducated fall victim to their claims, but the educated and the elite of society do as well.
Early this week, in one of the cities of West Bengal, a beheaded body of a local Ayurveda doctor was found near a temple. His head was found near a crematorium with some flowers, incense sticks and blood. “This made the foul play of black magic very clear,” local police said.
Fortune-telling is big business and not just in India
Similarly, a few months ago in the Southern city of Hyderabad police detained 14 alleged black magic practitioners accused of cheating people. They had a distinguished clientele including politicians, sports personalities, students and housewives.
Another incident, reported in a remote village of the western state of Maharashtra last year, was about the arrest of a childless couple for allegedly killing five young boys, as a self-proclaimed devout sage told them ‘it would help the woman to conceive.'
These gruesome cases, the authorities say, suggest that fraudulent and exploitative practices are being performed extensively across India.
So many people get caught in the muddle of false beliefs, blind faith and superstitious practices, said one women who once tried magic to boost her career.
“Irrational thinking propels people to opt for such practices for quick results. It is publicized through word of mouth; in fact, a chance success story begets the vicious circle of black magic and superstition,” said Sumita Amar, who is now an event manager.
Many people look for ways to see the future, improve their love lives or advance careers
Indians are already availing themselves of astrology, palm-reading, numerology, tea leaf prophecies, and such like, and black magic only makes things worse.
Shantanu, a banker, visited a ‘Baba' to bring his career and love life back on track. His problems remained unresolved and instead he went into debt to pay the Baba's recurring fees, he says.
“When times are tough we panic and opt for such silly alternatives,” he told DW.
In another instance, a woman we will call Savita also told DW that she did a 'silly' thing:. “To help my husband flourish his business I was asked by a Tantrik to keep a well-lit earthen lamp with some lemon, chillies and vermillion every Saturday at a crossroad. Nothing happened, except that I was caught doing this and now my neighbors and relatives have turned their backs on me assuming that I perform black magic.”
India is a country where traditions and customs are born out of blind faith in the name of God.
“I am very religious yet I was in a dilemma when I first heard about the Hanuman temple at Mehandipur in Rajasthan. It is believed that the deity in this temple has divine powers to cure a person possessed with evil spirits. The treatment here includes afflicting physical pain to one's body. I find it very bizarre at a time when we talk about being advanced and modern,” said Sumita, the event manager.
“This may seem old-fashioned, but thousands of people are believed to have been cured in this way,” one priest, defending the practices, told DW.
Lack of Reasoning
Dr Navneet, working in a government hospital in India said, “The practitioners of black magic are at times more trusted than a doctor. They treat jaundice, dog, snake or scorpion bites with chants, instead of medicine.”
Superstititon often trumps reason when reality is hard to bear
Things become worse when they seek sexual favors by claiming to be an incarnation of a holy spirit, or the client's wife or husband in past life, revealed Namrata Datye, a social worker.
The ability to reason ceases when problems surround us, and the ‘practitioners' take advantage of that opportunity. The story of Nirmal Baba, a self proclaimed godman and spiritual leader, is a case in point. He was charged with several counts of cheating and fraud in several states across India.
Unlawful practices definitely need a law
Though education plays a pivotal role in eradicating such practices, the widespread use of black magic also needs to be dealt with from a legal standpoint.
There is a thin line between faith and superstition that needs to be defined in law, as these practices and rituals performed in the name of God may be an expression of faith to some. This idea has been set down in the Anti-Superstition Bill of India, but is still waiting to be declared law, says Bhuwan Prakash Sharma, a lawyer in Jaipur.
But even before it becomes law, it is already the focus of protests.
Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, a Hindu religious and social organization, on its website mentions the views of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a right-wing Hindu nationalist group, which opposes the proposed Anti-Superstitions Act, stating that it was ‘an attack on faith in the name of eradicating superstition.'
Author: Tanushree Sharma Sandhu
Editor: Gregg Benzow