The Mumbai police say they have registered 30 cases under the state’s anti-superstation act since it was passed by the assembly in December 2013. The full name of the act is the Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act.
The bill on which the act is based was drafted by rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in 2003. However, it was only because law on December 18, 2013, following protests over the murder of Dabhokar, who was killed for his rational world-view and campaigns against superstition.
Two cases were registered in the remaining 12 days of 2013, and led to the arrest of four suspects. The following year, 13 cases were registered under the act. Eleven of these led to the arrest of 20 suspects, while another 12 remain at large. In 2015, 11 cases were registered under the act, of which 10 led to the arrest of a dozen suspects; nine others are still wanted. In January this year, two cases were registered, each leading to the arrest of one suspect.
Police officials say a common technique used by con men is waiting outside government hospitals and approaching people in distress, claiming to be tantriks. They often hand the victims a taveez or similar token in exchange for money, promising that it will rid them of their problems.
In one such case, registered by the LT Marg police, two men were arrested for duping a childless woman of Rs 4.85 lakh. Posing as tantriks, they tied a taveez around her wrist claiming it would ensure that she gave birth to a boy.
Police officials say that apart from promises of miracle cures, the lure of money also causes many to fall prey to such con men. In many cases, con men have duped victims by promising ‘showers of money’ if they just recite a particular mantra. In one such case, registered at RAK Marg police station on October 2015, two con men duped a senior citizen of Rs 11 lakh by claiming that chanting their mantras would make him rich.
In a few cases, such con men have been raped women on the pretext of saving them or their family from evil spirits. In a case registered by the Wadala TT police in March 2015, a 37-year-old was arrested for repeatedly sexually harassing a woman and threatening to haunt her parents if she refused his advances.