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A blank in Black Magic Law

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October 21, 2022

Why in news?

The suspected case of human sacrifices in Kerala has brought into focus the absence of a comprehensive law to counter such superstitious practices.

What is the issue?

  • Two women were killed in two separate ‘ritualistic human sacrifices’ at Elanthoor in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala.
  • It is not the first such case in Kerala and the majority of incidents took place in the countryside.
  • These incidents have raised serious concerns over the growing fascination for superstitious beliefs and occult ceremonies.

What does the NCRB data shows?

  • According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 6 deaths were linked to human sacrifices, while witchcraft was the motive for 68 killings in 2021.
  • The maximum number of witchcraft cases were reported from Chhattisgarh, followed by Madhya Pradesh and Telangana.
  • Notably, the NCRB doesn’t provide details of occult-related crimes in the country.
  • A private study by an NGO in 2021 found that 2,300 murders of so-called ‘witches’ were committed between 1999 and 2013 across the country.

What are the laws regulating black magic in India?

  • In India, there is no central law that exclusively deals with crimes related to witchcraft, superstition, or occult-inspired activities.
  • There is also no established definition of what black magic is due to a lack of nationalised legislation for the same.
  • In 2016, MP Raghav Lakhanpal introduced the Prevention of Witch-Hunting Bill in the Lok Sabha, but it wasn’t passed.
  • The Indian Penal Code (IPC) prescribes punishment for related crimes like abduction and murder, but not for harming others via furthering superstitious and outdated beliefs.

What State governments are doing?

  • In the absence of a nationwide legislation, a few States have enacted laws to counter witchcraft and protect women from deadly ‘witch-hunting’.
  • Bihar (1999) - It was the first State to enact a law to prevent witchcraft.
  • The act describes a witch as a “woman who has been identified as a witch by someone else, having the power or intention of harming any person through the art of black magic, evil eyes, or mantras.
  • Chhattisgarh (2005) - Chhattisgarh is one of the worst-affected States and in 2005 the State enacted the Chhattisgarh Tonahi Pratadna Nivaran Act.
  • Other states that legislate against such practices are Jharkhand (2001), Odisha (2013), Maharashtra (2013), Rajasthan (2015), Assam (2015), Karnataka (2020).

What are the challenges?

  • Religious incursion – Inclusion and exclusion of a practice as superstition is difficult because most of the superstitious practices are religious oriented.
  • Ethnicity Superstition entrenched in the cultural practice of a society is hard to change.
  • Illiteracy – An illiterate person becomes an easy target for such supernatural and Blackmagic acts.

What are the future aspirations?

  • There is an urgent need for a comprehensive nationwide Anti-superstition and Black Magic Act.
  • However, bringing a legislation to deal with such social issue will only be a half way progress.
  • Increase in awareness among the masses through information campaigns, and by roping in religious leaders to debunk the myths surrounding such practices will be a game changer.

References

  1. The Hindu | Laws against black magic and superstition in India
  2. The Hindu | Shocking cases of human sacrifice in Kerala
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