After two persons died and one went into coma in one week, the residents believed that they were victims of black magic.

Why a Karnataka village had to resort to superstition to cure chest pains
news Superstition Friday, September 22, 2017 - 17:25

When news of two deaths and one person going into a coma spread in a matter of one week in a village in Karnataka’s Gulbarga district, it led to a rumour that they were victims of ‘banamati'—a black magic spell.

Following this, a week ago eight residents of the village in Chincholi taluk’s Pastaapura village complained of severe pain in their chest. The residents then resorted to burning the afflicted persons’ chest with beedis and red-hot sticks in an attempt to reverse the ‘black magic spell’.

“Instead of visiting a doctor, the villagers got together and burnt the afflicted persons’ chests with beedis and red-hot sickles. They believed that it would release the evil spirit lodged inside their bodies. The residents believed that the entire village was going to be affected. They also burnt the chest of a nine-year-old boy,” said Gulbarga District Health Officer, Shivaraja Sajjan Shetty.

As news of this bizarre practice spread, it reached the tahsildar, Arun Kumar Kulkarni, who informed the DHO immediately.

“We got doctors and a psychiatrist from Gulbarga District Hospital to find out what was going on in this last one week. MLA Umesh Jadav also came with us. On Thursday night, we landed in Pastapura. This morning we found that the two persons who died may have had cardiac arrests while the person in a coma had suffered a stroke,” the DHO said.

The deceased, Hanumanth Rao Patil aged 65 years and Sharamnamma Manikappa Hadipad, also aged 65 years, had died last week on the same day.

“The very next day, 35-year-old Gundappa suffered a stroke. This was alarming for the villagers. This taluk (Chincholi) is very backward and the people living in these hamlets are extremely superstitious. The villagers met after these tragic incidents and the fear of being under threat spread. They decided to burn away the evil lodged inside the eight others by burning the chest area. It is a method practiced since several decades,” a senior officer with the district administration told TNM.

After the medical team carried out tests to determine what was wrong with the eight persons and why they were having pain in the chest area. The medical tests showed that they were perfectly healthy.

“Upon speaking with them, it became evident that it was a factitious disorder with physical symptoms. People with this disorder claim to have symptoms related to physical illness and the most common symptom is chest pain. This is entirely psychological,” said Dr Chandrashekhar Waded, the psychiatrist who had visited the village.

When the authorities questioned the village residents as to why they did not take Hanumanth and Sharanamma to the nearby public health centre, it was revealed that there was no doctor in the PHC.

“The PHC is Moha village was newly built and is 3 km away from Pastapura. The doctor there had resigned three months ago and there is only one nurse there. The next nearest PHC is 12 km away in Chandanakere. Getting there is difficult as the modes of transport are very bad in these areas. There are no buses. The residents thought it was better to stay in the village and go by the age-old method of what they believe was the cure,” the senior official added.

The team of doctors and officials from the district administration have decided to stay back in Pastapura and carry out an awareness drive to make the residents of the village equipped with knowledge about healthcare options.

Superstitious practices are rampant in many parts of Karnataka. The state government had promised to table the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifices and other Inhuman Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill in the Assembly.

However, because of severe opposition from religious groups and several leaders in the Assembly, the bill has been put on the backburner.

“There was a lot of opposition from MLAs from North Karnataka. They said that it would alienate their voters as many are superstitious in these northern districts. The bill is coming up for discussion in the next cabinet meeting. Astrology, vaastu, animal sacrifice, among other practices, have been dropped. The expert panel formed to review the bill will submit its report before the meeting,” a Congress leader said.

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