Sumitha Narayanan Kutty| The News Minute | August 26, 2014 | 08:26 am ISTTwo cases within the last two months have raised concerns over the growing popularity of the black arts in Kerala. The deaths of 26-year-old Haseena from Kollam district in mid July and 20-year-old Farsana (who was also pregnant) in the district of Malappuram in early August brought the dangerous practices to the spotlight. Haseena’s death behind closed doors, as detailed in her latest piece by OPEN magazine reporter Shahina KK, was brutal. The victim who suffered from depression (after she was allegedly raped in her teenage years) was forced to “lie down on her stomach, her body bent backwards to make her toes touch the back of her head, and then kicked on her spine—which broke, leading to internal bleeding.” The “exorcist” claimed she cried because the evil spirits were being forced out of her. Read: Exorcism claims a woman’s life in Kerala, one of India’s most literate statesThe second case in Ponnani, Malappuram was worse. According to reports, the victim was six months pregnant. Her in-laws thought black magic would cure her from her symptoms of epilepsy instead of proper medical care. Government working on lawReacting to the deaths in July, the Kerala state government announced it was contemplating on a law to prevent such exploitation of the masses in the name of such occult practices and sorcery. Among other states, Maharashtra was the first to ban such practices of black magic, blind faith and superstition last year and Karnataka is working towards it.What’s behind this?In a state which boasts of near 100 percent literacy and other impressive human development indicators, this growing trend to embrace the dark arts is indeed puzzling, even disturbing. These ruthless practices have now triggered debates over not only the legality of such alternate healing practices but also on the reasons behind its rising popularity.For one, the allure seems to cut across religions and, more importantly, economic classes. Speaking to The News Minute Ms. Radhika P, lecturer in the social sciences at MG University admitted that it was time the phenomenon was studied further. “From my initial enquiries into the deaths, there seems to be no clear socio-economic pattern to this trend.”The popular belief however seems to remain that rural folk and other vulnerable sections of society are easy prey. There is clearly a great need for deeper understanding of this problem.