Nagpur, Aug. 27: Maharashtra yesterday notified a law against superstition, becoming the first state in the country to ban black magic and witchcraft.
The ordinance follows the assassination of Narendra Dabholkar, one of the strongest advocates of the legislation, in Pune last week. The 65-year-old rationalist was taking a morning walk when he was shot dead by bike-borne assailants.
The law has provisions for awarding a maximum punishment of seven years in jail if found guilty of propagating superstitious practices and witchcraft. It bans inhuman rituals (a number of such practices have been enlisted in the legislation), human sacrifice, rituals that are said to be able to determine the sex of unborn children, and acts known as “jaadu-tona” (jadu means magic, and tona witchcraft) in common parlance, among others.
Governor K. Sankaranarayanan gave his assent to the ordinance on Saturday evening, clearing the way for the law — sent for a gazette notification last evening — to come into vogue.
The government said it will move the bill to replace the ordinance in the winter session of the Assembly in Nagpur. The Maharashtra cabinet endorsed the ordinance last Wednesday, a day after Dabholkar was killed.
The ordinance replaces the draft Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill 2011, commonly known as the “anti-black magic bill”.
“The bill was kept pending for years; we do not know if his (Dabholkar) life would have been saved if the government had acted earlier, but it would have sent out a message that the government stands by rationalist thought,” a local newspaper in Satara quoted Dabholkar’s daughter Mukta as saying.
For 18 years Dabholkar had campaigned for a special law to curb rampant superstition as he always felt that the Indian Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Code were very vague about dealing with it.
The Pune police, who have formed about 20 squads to crack Dabholkar’s murder and are being assisted by their Mumbai counterparts and the anti-terrorism squad, are yet to zero in on his killers.
“We have some clues, but insufficient to arrest the killers and reach the real perpetrators,” Maharashtra chief minister Prithvijraj Chavan said yesterday while continuing his tirade against Hindu Right-wing groups.