Mumbai: The Maharashtra government is likely to pass the Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Bill in the ongoing winter session of the state legislature in Nagpur and is trying to convince the opposition that the Bill is not against any religion but meant to stop evil practices.
Right-wing parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, as well as the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, have been opposing the Bill for long though the government promulgated an Anti-Superstition and Black Magic ordinance following the killing of anti-superstition crusader Dr Narendra Dabholkar in Pune on August 20. State Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan now wants the ordinance to converted into an Act during this legislative session.
The law bans human sacrifice, cruel practices, black magic, witchcraft, even rituals that determine the sex of the unborn child, illegal practice of medicine or healing, quackery and exploitation of common people. The non-bailable offence carries a punishment of imprisonment from six months that can be extended to seven years and a fine amount ranging from Rs5000-Rs50,000 (Dh300-Dh3,000).
Chavan has said that the state government was committed to passing of the Bill and he and his ministers have been holding meetings with legislators from all parties and organisations to convince them. At one such presentation of the Bill on December 10, Vinod Tawde, leader of the opposition in the Legislative Council, said they were concerned that the Bill was anti-Hindu since only Hindu imageries were used in the text of the Bill. These fears needed to be allayed, he said. Many of them have asked the government to clarify certain definitions and concepts in the Bill.
Legislator Sudhir Mungantiwar of the BJP asked, “In case of human sacrifice, a person can be booked and punished under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Is there a need for a special provision under a different law?” He also asked the state to provide data on human sacrifice offences during the past 10 years.
The Warkari community of Maharashtra has strongly opposed the bill and threatened to take to electoral politics in order to defeat politicians who passed the Bill. To them, the Bill would be harmful to their age-old practices of pilgrimage and Hindu traditions.
Chavan has assured the legislators and some religious heads that the bill was only meant to stop evil practices intended to inflict physical, mental and financial harm to an individual and also appealed to them to submit their say on the Bill in writing to the Social Justice department.