SUPERSTITION IN INDIA: THE SOCIAL EVIL
Author: Pravesh Shekhar, M.A in Criminology and Police Studies
It is rightly remarked, "Science is the great antidote to the poison of enthusiasm and superstition." Superstition is unquestionably ingrained in people's minds and communities worldwide. Nevertheless, in other cases, if left unchecked, a benign monster of superstition continues to feed on the gullibility of the defenceless and quickly multiplies to devour people, societies, and generations. Therefore, everyone ought to play a proactive role in finally putting an end to this atrocity.
1. A superstition is a fictitious belief, concept, or dread of something without a rational basis. It might comprise both positive and negative thoughts, ideas, and fears.
2. "Superstition" originates from the Latin word "Superstitio," which means an irrational fear of god. The English word "superstition" was derived from this Latin word.
3. Superstitions are not limited to a particular nation, religion, culture, community, area, caste, or social class; rather, they are pervasive and can be discovered in all parts of the world.
4. The practise of labelling a woman as a witch and then causing her harm, whether it be physical or psychological, is known as witch hunting. The stigmatisation of women as witches is a component of witch hunts. When a so-called "Ojha" or "Black Magician" accuses a lady of being a witch, it is common practise to incite a mob frenzy and resort to lynching as part of the legal process leading up to her execution.
5. According to the report compiled in 2021 by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), human sacrifices were responsible for six fatalities, while witchcraft was the primary factor in 68 killings.
6. The maximum number of witchcraft cases were reported from Chhattisgarh (20), followed by Madhya Pradesh (18) and Telangana (11).
7. It is extremely alarming that no central law in India specifically addresses offences involving witchcraft, Superstition, or occult-related activities.
8. The Prevention of Witch-Hunting Bill was presented to the Lok Sabha in 2016, but it ultimately failed to become law. The clauses in the proposal included punishment for charging or identifying a woman as a witch, using criminal force against a woman or torturing or humiliating a woman under the pretext of committing witchcraft.
RELEVANT PROVISIONS ON CENTRAL LEVEL
1. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) takes cognisance of human sacrifice under Section 302 (the penalty for murder), but only after the murder has been committed. Section 295A, on the other hand, attempts to discourage such practices by making them a punishable offence.
2. In accordance with Article 51A (h) of the Indian Constitution, all Indian citizens must cultivate a scientific temperament, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform in their daily lives.
3. Other aspects of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Act, passed in 1954, aim to combat the crippling effects of various forms of Superstition that are common in India.
SPECIAL LOCAL LAWS ON SUPERSTITION
Only eight states in India have witch-hunting legislation so far. These include Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Assam, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
1. The Prevention of Witch (Daain) Practices Act came into force in October 1999 (Bihar).
2. Jharkhand's Witchcraft Prevention Act, 2001
3. Tonahi Pratadna Nivaran Act in 2015. (Chhattisgarh)
4. Odisha Prevention of Witch-hunting Act, 2013
5. The Rajasthan Prevention Of Witch-Hunting Act, 2015
6. Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act 2013
7. Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Act (2017)
8. Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015
It is impossible to eradicate every superstition through the passage of legislation. A conceptual shift is necessary for the elimination of these kinds of behaviours entirely, and it is something that every culture needs to adopt. Even while behaviours motivated by superstition can be extremely destructive and criminal, the law is the only institution with the authority to punish them.As a result of the country's diverse population and history, superstitions are prevalent in India. According to data from the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) for the year 2020, 88 people were killed for causes related to witchcraft. The state of Madhya Pradesh had the highest number of witchcraft-related killings, with 17.On the other hand, the sacrifice of human children amounted to a total of 12, with the state of Chhattisgarh with the highest number of 9.It would not be wrong to say that Witch-hunting, other crimes associated with superstition, and other superstitious behaviours that are less religious and more criminal are against the fundamental rights protected by Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Indian Constitution. Several international laws, including the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights," the "International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," and the "Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women," to which India is a signatory, are also infringed by these activities.
1. In today's day and age, the only thing that can serve as a beacon of light at the end of a dark tunnel is science and a scientific mindset. As a result, cultivating a scientific temperament and adopting central regulation are required in this millennium to restrain the evil of superstition and irrational ideas, which result in the conduct of various heinous crimes.
2. The Odisha High Court also made the observation that the state laws that are already in existence are not adequate to solve the problem, and it underlined the urgent need for a central law instead.
3. In India, legislation governing superstitions is obligatory; nevertheless, there is a prerequisite of first debating the particular elements that ought to be included. Not a single superstition can be eradicated through the power of legislation. A new point of view is necessary for this situation. Nevertheless, measures need to be taken to deal with rules that target superstitious behaviours that are exploitative, cruel and degrading.