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A disease called superstition

The one-of-its-kind Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013 aims at preventing exploitation of people through practices like human sacrifice, black magic and witchcraft, among others.
Activist Shyam Manav, who started an anti-superstition campaign in 1982, from Nagpur, strongly feels that Goa too should enact a similar act.
“In the year 1983, during the initial days of my anti-superstition campaign, I had visited Goa. From then to now I can say nothing much has changed in the state. People used to believe in superstitions in those days also and they continue to believe in them till date. On the contrary, there is an increase in the number of people who believe in superstitions”, says Manav, adding that there is a trend in Goa wherein people take some major decisions in life by consulting these so-called astrologers and godmen, the very people who exploit people physically and monetarily.
Pointing out that Goa is a peaceful and communally harmonious land where the people are neither violent nor aggressive, he says, “It is only because of this nature of Goans that deaths due to superstitions are negligible.”
But during recent times, he says, in the name of religion, some Hindu fundamentalist groups have been known to use techniques like hypnotism in the name of meditation to brainwash people to use them for motives that are anti-religion.
“This is mainly being done to destroy the communal harmony and peace of Goa. And to curb such groups, I feel Goa should enact an act like that of Maharashtra”, he says, adding, “Once this bill is introduced, it will eradicate superstitions to a very large extent as most of them are spread due to lack of knowledge.”
Says Manav, “In case of a misunderstanding between a husband and wife the solution should be discussing the problem and then solving it. But instead, people go to astrologers who chant some mantras and claim to have solved the problem.”
The only way by which this problem can be solved is by teaching people to think logically, he says.
Speaking about the Maharashtra act, he says, “Sections of IPC cannot be directly applied to cases like human sacrifice, black magic, witchcraft and others. Intentions have to be proved every time. But, a unique act such as the one implemented in Maharashtra is specifically meant to address such cases. Whatever the intention of the person indulging in superstition, the act itself is wrong; like for instance, taking a child who has been bitten by a snake bite to a ‘mantrik’ instead of a doctor. In this case, intensions are good, but the act is wrong.”
Categorically stating that he is not against religion and religious practices, Manav says, “There is a fine line between faith and superstitions. One never knows when one crosses this line and faith turns into superstition. No good religious practices will be affected by this Act.”
“Some Hindu fundamentalist groups are simple trying to create fear in the minds of people and are spreading wrong ideas about religions”, says Manav, challenging those who make false claim in the name god and religion.
“With modernisation, things should have changed, but belief in superstitions has increased in India. To a very large extent, media is also responsible for spreading superstitions. Social media also has added to the spread of superstitions”, he claims.
Recollecting memories, he says, “Somewhere in 1988 or 1989, there was a programme called ‘Honi Anhoni’ telecast on Doordarshan. This programme used to promote superstitions. After a series of nine episodes, prior to the tenth episode, we held a protest outside the Doordarshan office and they had to cancel all remaining episodes.”
“Being a government-run channel, it was bound to follow constitutional duties like spirit of inquiry, scientific temper, reforms and humanity. This isn’t the case with private channels as they have no restrictions, which has led to an increase in superstitions in the name of religion. They are here only to make money. Also, one can post anything on the internet, which further aggravates belief in superstitions”, he says.
Pointing out that belief in superstitions exists across religions and social sections, he says, “Extreme cases of belief in superstitions are not seen in Goa. But in states like Bihar and Orissa, among others, there are many deaths happening as a result of indulging in superstitious practices”, he says.
“Mostly, females are the ones who become victims of sexual and monetary exploitation at the hands of tantriks”, he says, adding that the main reason for this was lack of exposure on the one hand and heavy participation in religious activities on the other.
When ‘sadhaks’ claim to have seen god, says Manav, it can be a result of hallucinations. “It can be achieved by means suggestion when the person is in meditation, is hypnotised or in deep trance. The person can see things but those are just hallucinations”, he says.
“Hallucinations can also be the result of drugs like LSD or wrong secretions in the brain”, he says.
Pointing out that astrology is purely superstition, Manav says, “Astrology is not being taught in any college. Astrologers work on the law of probability and suggestions.”
“In protecting people from these tantriks, babas and astrologers, the government has a very important role to play. If people are exploited and their lives are claimed, then the government should take stern action against such people”, he concludes.

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