Siddaramaiah was voted in on the back of a promise to pass anti-superstition bill, but the draft is in cold storage.

How many more human sacrifices before Karnataka brings in anti-superstition lawRepresentation Photo
news Human Sacrifice Monday, March 06, 2017 - 15:27

Five days after a 10-year-old girl became the victim of a human sacrifice ritual in Bengaluru, more shocking details are emerging in the case. The victim was murdered by her own uncle, who was advised by an occulist that ‘sacrificing’ the girl would cure his paralysed brother.

But even as arrests are made in the case, the larger issue is that black magic - and other superstitious practices - are prevalent in the state, and the Karnataka government has so far failed to take any action.

The state government had proposed the Karnataka Prevention of Superstitious Activities Bill in 2013, right after the Congress came to power in the state. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had promised to put an end to such practices during his election campaign. But years later, with just one-and-a-half years left in his term, the Chief Minister hasn’t managed to pass the bill yet.

Speaking to The News Minute, Avinash Patil, Executive President of Maharashtra Andharashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) pointed out that it was the lack of political will by the ruling party that has stalled the passing of the anti-superstition bill in Karnataka.

A team of representatives including Avinash Patil had met Karnataka Chief Minister Siddarmaiah and other Ministers of the state government in July 2016 to convince the government to pass the bill on a priority basis.

"We had met the Home Minister and the CM then, and we assured our support and guidance in the drafting of the bill for the state of Karnataka. At the time, Siddaramaiah had asserted that passing the bill was his top priority and that the government was committed to eradicating superstitious practices from the state. However, two Assembly sessions have gone by after that meeting and the bill is yet to be passed," Avinash said.

According to sources, the bill was then put on the back burner after stiff opposition from several members of the Congress cabinet. Barring Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister TB Jayachandra, no other member of the cabinet supported the bill when it appeared for clearance in July 2016.

“In February, it was decided that the bill would be put on hold until the elections are over as many MLAs and even Ministers do not want to offend residents of their constituencies by passing it. They fear that it would hurt their sentiments. There were 23 practices listed in the original bill and barring human sacrifice, most of them have been scrapped in the revised bill,” the source added.

The bill is now called the Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2016. Avinash Patil expressed concern over the contents of the bill, considering that there are allegations of the draft bill being diluted to exempt a number of "religious" practices.

Besides human sacrifice, the banned practices include use of black magic and rituals to find hidden treasure, sacrificing of animals or walking on embers to appease the gods. However, rituals in temples, houses, dargahs, gurudwaras, churches and pagodas, which do not involve physical torture, have reportedly been exempted from the draft bill.

Activists say that passing the bill is crucial to curbing such practices, since even the NCRB data does not classify these instances as human sacrifice. There is no law to categorically separate them from any other murder.

Most practices banned in the proposed legislation are prevalent in almost every village of the state. In 2016, five cases of human sacrifice were reported in Karnataka. Most of these cases go unnoticed as they are registered as cases of murder or suicide, said Narendra Nayak, President of the Indian Rationalist Association.

What is significant is that these rituals have been historically practised. In Kukanooru village, located in Koppal district’s Yelaburga taluk, there is a very popular Kali temple and the reference dates back to the 7th century. It is believed that humans were sacrificed for Goddess Kali and the spirits of the dead were trapped beneath the temple.

“When the archaeological department wanted to excavate this temple, there was stiff opposition from the locals as they feared they would be hounded by these spirits,” said Surendra Rao, President of Samudaya, an NGO, which rallied for the anti-superstition bill.

Anti-superstition activists say that most of these rituals, especially human sacrifice is practised in North Western Karnataka.

“In Raichur’s Banamati area, human sacrifice is widely prevalent even today. Children are usually targeted for the ritual as they can be kidnapped and moved around easily. In Davanagere and Gulbarga regions, children are whipped to death in exorcism rituals. Also, in Gulbarga, children are thrown into a bush of thorns and sometimes made to sleep on a bed of thorns to ward off evil in their body,” Nayak said.

In most cases, these practices of torturing the children occur as “the people are not educated and do not understand what is troubling their children and assume they are possessed,” Nayak said.

But with only a year-and-a-half to go for the next Assembly polls, the ruling party is more worried about votes than the lives of children. Many Ministers reportedly feel that the bill could give the opposition fodder to accuse the government of curbing Hindu religious practices in the Assembly.

 

Show us some love! Support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.