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NRI group gets cracking on Asian occultists in Britain

Rationalists of Indian origin have asked the occultists to scientifically prove they can actually cure people.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2005 12:20 IST

A group of rationalists of Indian origin has challenged hundreds of occult practitioners and spiritual healers in Britain to scientifically prove that they can deliver the promise to cure people of any disease or solve any problem.

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), said such witchdoctors and charlatans were exploiting superstitious and gullible people from these communities and earning thousands of pounds every year.

"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," Prasher told the agency.

"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."

The Birmingham-based Prashar said ARSB had announced a prize of 2,000 pounds in 1997 to any person who could prove to possess magical powers before the media and scientists.

"No one has come forward so far. We are now going to increase the prize money to 5,000 pounds or even 10,000 pounds," 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. "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, there were many more who were active within the communities. Many such individuals come to Britain on visitors' visas and earn money by promising the world to the superstitious 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."

First Published: Dec 07, 2005 12:16 IST