For good fortune and a bumper harvest, turn to the Holy Ghost. Or, rather buy one.
Good luck ghosts were on sale for anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 in Chhattisgarh’s backward Jashpur district, where a gang of three preyed on gullible tribal villagers and farmers steeped in superstition and looking for wealth and success.
The sale of the occult was a carefully coordinated roadside drama where two of the gang members chose a spot teeming with people and created an illusion through “hath ki safai” or street magic in front of prospective customers to win their confidence.
By then, a good but hesitating crowd would mill around the roadside tricksters. To dispel doubts among the villagers, one of the gang members came forward to be the first buyer. Once the web is cast, sealed tin boxes “carrying a ghost inside” were sold with an advisory to open them only at home after sunset.
The crooks ensured they never peddled their ware at one place twice and the “ghost in a box” brought them good money until the genie was out of the bottle.
The buyers soon saw their own ghosts. “Around a dozen people approached me with complaints that they were deceived as the ghost they bought didn’t yield anything. That such a product was sold to ignorant people was brought to the notice of police immediately,” said Mukesh Sharma, vice-president of Bagicha block Janpad panchayat, located about 320km from Raipur.
Bagicha town inspector GS Dubey said the ghost-sellers were arrested and sent to jail. “One is from Jharkhand and the other two from neighbouring Sarguja district.”
Rationalists have appealed to the government to launch a campaign against superstition. “Lack of knowledge leads people to get carried away by swindlers,” said physician and social activist Dinesh Mishra, who is also the president of Andh Shradha Nirmoolan Samiti.