“Prayers and mantras by sorcerer to throw out ghosts or telling about ‘miracles’ of saints during discourses and marketing ‘miracles’ proclaiming self as godman are also allowed,” said a presentation made by the social justice department before party leaders from both houses of the legislature. “Even street-side palmists. astrologers or card readers can continue with their businesses,” revealed a senior MLC, who was surprised by the dilutions.
After the presentation, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan told party leaders and legislators that the bill would be made more comprehensive by accommodating their suggestions and objections.
The bill recommends strong punishment for beating up someone, issuing threats or inflicting physical injury on anyone over ghost or black-magic. It also recommends punishment for mental, physical or sexual harassment by making false promises or by proclaiming self as godman.
“It completely bans human sacrifice. Provoking people to take extreme steps by creating scare is also punishable offence as per the proposed bill,” revealed an official.
“Posing as if ‘goddesses or souls have manifested in him or her’ at the time of festivities will not be a punishable offence as per the anti-superstition bill,” said a social activist attached to Dr Dabholkar’s movement. According to social justice minister Shivajirao Moghe, a senior inspector-level officer would be given powers to investigate these matters.
“However, the CM’s request to all parties to come out with opinions, so as to include them in the bill, would dilute the very purpose of the bill, which was to eradicate all such practices from the state completely,” said some activists.
Delay on part of the state government in cracking the conspiracy behind Dr Narendra Dabholkar’s murder, despite union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde‘s statement that state had already arrested a few people, has already resulted in huge embarrassment for the government.
Following the assassination of Dr Dabholkar, who had drafted the bill in 1990 at Pune, the Maharashtra government had promulgated an ordinance prohibiting such practices and also registered some cases. Dabholkar, activist of Maharashtra Andh-Shraddha Nirmulan Samiti (MANS), had tried his best to get the bill passed for about a decade, but sadly he had failed to convince members.
The Maharashtra (Eradication of Black Magic, Evil and Aghori Practices) Bill was first tabled in 2003, but went through as many as 29 amendments, before being cleared by the assembly in 2005 winter session in Nagpur. However, it was delayed in the council, primarily due to stiff opposition by the saffron parties. Now, the bill has been rechristened to ‘Maharashtra Human Sacrifice and Inhuman Rituals, Evil and Aghori Practices, Miracle Remedies and Eradication of Black Magic Bill’.
Chavan appealed to members not to give political colour to the bill and even said that it was aimed at preventing human sacrifice, which was sadly prevalent today in tribal areas. Opposition leader Eknath Khadse insisted that it should be implemented across all religions and sects, and not one religion alone.