Almost two years since it was passed, the Maharashtra Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act (2013) is fast becoming a model act for other state governments and rationalist groups. Dr Hamid Dabholkar, son of murdered rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, said that apart from rationalist organisations from seven states, governments of Assam and Karnataka have consulted the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) to frame the anti-superstition law in their state.
The murder of Dr Narendra Dabholkar in 2013 had propelled the Maharashtra government to pass its anti-superstition law. As a result of 18 long years of advocacy by Dr Dabholkar and MANS, the law is said to be comprehensive in its coverage of various activities which can be termed as superstition. Since its passage, the law has become an object of intense scrutiny by detractors and supporters alike.
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Following the murder of Kannada author MM Kalburgi, the Karnataka government has also initiated the process of passing its anti-superstition law. Dr Hamid Dabholkar said that MANS activists from Karnataka and Maharashtra have been involved in the consultation process in forming the Act. Multiple consultations have been held with the state government regarding the passage of the bill.
Other than Karnataka, MANS activists are also coordinating with rationalists and the Assam government in forming the state’s anti-witchcraft law. Senior MANS activist Vinayak Savale was in Assam to help in the process. “The Assam Mahila Samta Society and other rationalist and women’s organisations had contacted us to get inputs about the Act. In Assam, the problem of women being branded as witches is severe, especially in tribal belts,” he said.
Savale said that although the Assam Act has tougher provisions than that of Maharashtra, it covers only the problem of witchcraft and excludes other acts of superstition. While it took 18 years for the Maharashtra government to pass the Act, Assam’s cabinet has passed the law within a year.
Savale and other MANS activists had travelled to Assam to discuss promulgation of the law with various rationalists organisations. On the other hand, Dabholkar said MANS has been contacted by organisations from West Bengal, Punjab and other states who feel their states should have a similar law.