A new anti-superstition legislation, considered a pet project of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, has received support from an unlikely quarter with a group of Hindu religious leaders coming together to voice their support for the proposed law.
The move by a group of seers working under the umbrella of a Progressive Pontiffs Forum comes a year after the Congress government in Karnataka shelved plans to table a draft of the Karnataka Prevention and Abolition of Superstition Practices Bill in the state legislature in the wake of protests by religious groups concerned over the curbing of some traditional practices by the new law.
Last November Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had received a draft of the anti-superstition bill prepared by experts from the National Law School of India University and others and had announced that it would be tabled in the winter session in Belgaum in December. The group of experts had drafted the bill at the behest of the chief minister. The plan to table the bill was shelved however after religious leaders voiced concerns that it was targeting traditional practices of the Hindu community at large.
The present announcement of support for the anti-superstition bill by the Progressive Pontiffs Forum comes days ahead of the start of the winter session of the legislature on December 9 at Belgaum.
One of the contentious religious practices that is sought to be banned under the new bill is the ritual of people from lower castes rolling in food left over by persons from higher castes known as Made Snana which is practiced at some temples in Karnataka.
The Progressive Pontiffs Forum of Hindu religious leaders have called for the state government to take serious steps to ban the practice of Made Snana since it propagates superstition and harassment of people from lower castes.
“Despite the Supreme Court voicing concern over the practice of Made Snana it is being promoted. It is wrong to believe that people will be purified by practicing the ritual,” Veerabhadra Chennamalla, the head seer of the Nidumamidi Mutt in Kolar, said at a meeting of the progressive pontiffs Monday.
“The government should have come out with a law last year but it developed cold feet due to a campaign of misinformation by vested interests,” the seer said.
According to the draft anti-superstition bill, practices like astrological predictions, black magic and witchcraft were to be banned and made punishable. Practices and beliefs that create disharmony in society and promote discrimination like Made Snana (making people roll on leftover food) or the Ajalu system (making people eat human excreta, nails, hair etc, as is done in the case of Koragas, a Dalit community in Udupi and Mangalore districts) were to be abolished. The practice of barring sections of people, including menstruating women, from entering houses of worship or living areas were included in the list of practices to be purged in the draft bill.