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Asian rationalists in UK dare tantriks

Rationalists of Indian origin will offer 1000 pounds to mystical healers who can prove they can cure people.

india Updated: Jan 14, 2006 11:11 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

A group of rationalists of Indian origin here have raised 10,000 pounds that is being offered to tantriks or mystical healers who can scientifically prove they can cure people of diseases or solve their personal problems.

Newspapers catering to Asian and Afro-Caribbean readerships have several pages of advertisements from such practitioners, promising magical cures and manna to those who believe in spells and occult practices.

Lavkesh Prashar, president of the Asian Rationalist Society of Britain (ARSB), told the agency that such witchdoctors and charlatans were exploiting the superstitious and gullible people from these communities and earning thousands of pounds every year.

The prize money was raised from 2,000 pounds to 10,000 pounds at a meeting of the society in Birmingham last week, Prasher said.

"We challenge them to prove that they have magical powers under scientific conditions. They charge anything up to 300 pounds for a simple chat and claim they can cure anything from serious illness to bad luck.

"They are nothing more than charlatans. They are preying on the more traditional members of our society who have been brought up to believe in this kind of thing.

"We announced a prize of 2,000 pounds in 1997 to any such person who can prove to posses magical powers before the media and scientists. No one has come forward so far. We hope someone will now come forward to claim the higher prize money," the Birmingham-based Prashar said.

The society, set up in 1997 to promote scientific awareness, works closely with the Federation of Indian Rationalists Association, and has branches in Derby, Leicester and Coventry.

Prashar said the fact that such individuals could afford to spend hundreds of pounds to advertise in various newspapers in Britain every week indicated that they were doing good business.

He said his organisation had brought such practices to the attention of the British government, but the police were not able to move without a victim coming forward and lodging a complaint. He, however, hopes that such victims will soon volunteer to complain.

"Many victims come to us and narrate how they have been cheated of thousands of pounds, but they either don't want to expose themselves by going to the police or are just too scared of having a bad spell cast on them for doing so."

Apart from those who advertise in the Asian and Afro-Caribbean papers, Prashar said, there were many more who were active within the communities. Many such individuals come to Britain on visitors' visas and earn money by claiming to possess divine powers, he added.

Prashar said: "If they can do all of the things that they claim, and they do have divine powers, then they should come forward and prove it to the world. If they cannot, then they are exposed as the cheap street magicians they are.

"The problem is not only confined to the superstitious people in the Asian community. Others also fall victim to such promises. The victims feel trapped and do not come forward to help put an end to such practices."

He said the rationalist body had written to ministers in the British government and others to put an end to such exploitative practices.

Tax authorities were also asked to inquire whether individuals offering such services were paying taxes on the income earned, but official action was stymied by the lack of victims coming forward to complain.

First Published: Jan 14, 2006 11:11 IST