Maharashtra has become the first state in India to bring in a law banning black magic, witchcraft and other superstitious practices, but after the assassination of the man who led the fight against such blind faith.
On Saturday evening, governor K Sankaranarayanan signed an ordinance that the state government hopes will curb all these practices, which are at times harmful and even fatal.
The governor’s assent came four days after the murder of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 68, the founder-head of the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti.
The state government is likely to notify the law, which stipulates a maximum sentence of up to seven years in jail for various practices, by Monday.
Among other things, the new law will ban inhuman practices, human sacrifice, rituals to enable sex selection by pregnant women, and all forms of acts known as ‘jaadu-tona’ in common parlance.
The governor signed the ordinance drafted and cleared by the state cabinet on Wednesday, a day after two people on a bike shot Dabholkar when he was out for a morning walk in Pune.
The killing triggered outrage and protests across Maharashtra, prompting the government to clear the ordinance to enforce the anti-superstition bill he had championed for years.
Dabholkar had drafted the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Bill more than a decade ago, but it repeatedly failed to get through the legislature.
The ordinance replaces the draft ‘Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill 2011’, known simply as the ‘anti-Black Magic Bill’, pending before the legislature.
Under severe pressure for delaying the long-pending legislation, the state government adopted the ordinance route instead of waiting for the next session of legislature in Nagpur in December.
No one has been arrested so far for Dabholkar’s murder.
Dangerous Superstitions: a pan-Indian menace