Bengaluru: The much-awaited anti-superstition bill seems to have been defeated even before it could reach the Legislative Assembly as most ministers seemed reluctant to approve it on Friday.
Barring Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Law Minister, T.B. Jayachandra, no member of the Cabinet supported it when it was placed before it for clearance, according to sources, who believe it may not be passed at all given the opposition to it.
Most ministers are reportedly apprehensive about the repercussions of passing the legislation as it could hurt the sentiments of the people of their constituencies. Barring human sacrifice, which cannot be condoned, most practices banned by the proposed legislation, now called the Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other the Inhuman Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill – 2016, are found in almost every village of the state and with only a year- and- a- half to go for the next assembly polls, the ministers reportedly don’t want to risk attracting the wrath of the voters by banning what are widely seen as religious rituals.
They are also afraid the bill could give the opposition fodder to accuse the government of curbing Hindu religious practices in the Assembly, at a time when it is likely to come under fire for the suicide of two police officers allegedly as a result of harassment by their seniors and politicians, say sources .
Sensing opposition to it, the name of the bill was changed for better acceptance and borrowed directly from the legislation passed by the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, but this too doesn’t seem to have helped matters any.
While one schedule of the bill deals with practices to be banned, another specifies rituals exempted from it. Besides human sacrifice, the banned practices include use of black magic, so-called rituals to find hidden treasure and sacrificing of animals or walking on embers to appease the gods. Exempted are rituals in temples, houses, dargahs, gurudwaras, churches and pagodas, which do not involve physical torture.
Prayers not superstition: Draft bill
On a day when the state cabinet could not approve the anti-superstition bill because of resistance from many ministers, an expert committee constituted to give suggestions to the government on the issue submitted a draft bill to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday evening. Termed the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Evil and Inhuman Practices Act 2016, the 13-page document proposes a mechanism needed to legally fight the superstition and also describes various forms of superstition.
For the sake of believers, the draft excluded a whole range of religious activities, including pradakshina, parikrama, aarati at temples and prayers at all places of worship. The activities which are considered as superstitious and are liable for punishment include extorting money in the name of god, assaulting a person as part of exorcism ritual, inducing people through miracles, Bhanamati, kyagamati, maata and tantra, human sacrifice in search of treasure, performing black magic and preventing people from taking medical treatment. The draft makes it clear that offences categorised under this should be non-bailable.