news Saturday, February 21, 2015 - 05:30
Anisha Sheth | The News Minute | February 18, 2015 | 12.29 pm IST (Last updated: February 21, 2015 | 11.45 am IST) Follow @anisha_w The exact cause of the death of a child suspected to have become the victim of a gang of superstitious treasure hunters still remains unknown. Recent evidence in the kidnap and death of a child in Koppala district suggested that she may have been a victim of superstition and black magic.  The body of five-and-a-half year old Gayathri, the daughter of a couple of who owns a small hotel in Hosalli village of Koppala district was found on February 5, 10 days after she went missing on January 26. The child was found dead in a bathroom in a newly constructed house, but there was little to suggest that she had been a victim of black magic.  Superintendent of Police Raja P. told The News Minute that the post-mortem report was expected within a couple of days. He said that the post-mortem had been conducted 16 days ago. Asked about protests from the family of the child and the villagers, demanding better investigation, Raja said that they were happy with the way the investigation was progressing and that no such protest had been brought to his attention. Investigation  Initially, police had not suspected that Gayathri had been a victim of black magic as they could not find paraphernalia associated it near the body or in the building, but they had not ruled out the possibility. Read: The perverse belief that makes villagers in Bellary brand babies with hot iron Asked how then, the focus of the investigation shifted, he said: “We got clues from some of the villagers. When we investigated, it turned out that a local poojary sort of man had claimed that there was treasure buried in the fields (of one Shantilal) and that a pooja had to be performed to pacify the spirits.” Stating that some of the accused had been known to hunt for treasure in the past as well, he added: “So they decided to kidnap the child thinking that because the parents were poor, they were unlikely to protest. They lured the child around at around 6.30 in the evening.” He added that the accused – 14 of them so far, including the priest who performed the ritual – had performed the pooja in the fields over two days and had even dug up the area, but found no treasure. Only the priest who had performed the ritual is yet to be arrested. Police suspect that he hails from Kerala. “They dumped the body in the house of a person with whom the villagers did not get along, in an attempt to divert attention. Initially the doctors thought that the child had been smothered, which is not how victims of black magic usually die. In this case, the priest had taken blood from the fingers of the child for the pooja,” Raja said. Anti-superstition bill In the absence of an anti-superstition act, there may be no law to specifically deal with crime committed in the name of black magic. Raja said that only sections relating to kidnap and murder had been invoked at present. To a question on whether there were any provisions in the law that related to the practice of superstitious beliefs, Raja said that they were obtaining legal opinion on it and relevant provisions would be invoked when filing the chargesheet, if necessary. The Karnataka Prevention of Superstitious Practices Bill 2013 was due to be tabled in the winter session of the assembly in 2013, but it has still not been enacted. The law seeks to curb crime that occurs in the name of superstition.  Writer and one of the members who drafted the bill, Vasundhara Bhoopathi said that unless the government enacts the law, such incidents will keep happening. She said all political parties needed to support the bill. Asked if the IPC was not enough to penalize the offenders, Bhoopathi said: “The blood of this child was used in the belief that it would result in wealth. Personal wealth then becomes more important than a sense of (right and wrong). This act was done thinking that it was for god. The belief in god (often) is based on fear, and in this context, it must be countered by the fear of the law.” She said that the enactment of the law in Maharashtra had led to the registration of around 20 cases in which arrests had been made. She said that although there was no consolidated data available, superstition claimed around two or three lives each year, but non-fatal violence of all kinds committed in the name of superstition was far more common and needed to be addressed. Last December, an infant in Bellary district was branded with hot iron rods with the belief that it would made the baby breast-feed. Branding children or infants with the belief that it would remedy some disease or the other is a fairly common practice in the district, and the local hospitals treat several cases each week. Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

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