A Legal Insight into the world of Voodooism, Black Magic and Witchcraft.

Author: Pranjjall Sharma, Law Student, 3rd Year

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“Woman branded a witch, nose chopped off in Bihar.”
“Dalit girl’s death, cops suspect human sacrifice.”
“Man arrested for human sacrifice, skeletons found at his house.”
“Father sacrifices his own daughter to attain greater wealth.”

How does reading these headlines make you feel? Angry, agitated or disgusted with the opinion that this nation is going to succumb to its own superstitions one day? Black magic or Tantric Powers are still overshadowing the rational thinking of people unaware and naïve enough to understand the difference between what is humanly right and wrong.

The misuse of Tantric Powers began unfortunately with a large number of Tantra enthusiasts giving in to their greed and using these powers to attain worldly pleasures. That is when these powers began to be mistakenly identified as the yoga of black magic, witchcraft, seduction and an amalgam of techniques for influencing the mind of others. With the growing rate of crimes being committed in the name of human sacrifice and witch hunting; it is now an ardent call for the law to step in and curb the necessary evils.

But if it is that simple, why hasn’t the law banned these practices already? What is stopping the lawmakers from making laws against all such practices and from eradicating them?

To understand this, we will first have to have a short insight into the history of voodooism, black magic and witchcraft.

Brief History

Voodooism is a religion practised by the Africans which is basically a mixture of Christianity and African religions of Yoruba and Fon. In the 19th century, it was codified in New Orleans, USA and later subsequently was recognized as a religion in Benin, Africa and Haiti, North America as well. It is pertinent to note that this was the case of the early years and as of today since this religion is based upon animal and human sacrifices; the validity of the same is being questioned and highly debated upon in their birth countries as well. Haiti’s first Roman Catholic cardinal has described voodoo as a “big social problem” for his poor country, arguing that the religion offers “magic” but no real solutions to a population deprived of justice and a political voice. “If a person is well educated and has the financial means, they will go to a doctor instead of the voodoo priest when they get sick. If that same person went to the court to get the justice they would not go to the voodoo priest to get revenge. It’s a big problem for the church. And for Haiti” he said.

Black Magic is rather a secretive practice condemned by the people of all societies since time immemorial. But one striking difference in the opinions since back in the ages and today is that in the name of “respecting religions”, black magic has found its solace. With more and more population getting involved in the misconduct, the rational working of ethics and morality has taken a back seat. Unlike voodoo, black magic has no historical relevance that supports its continuance.
Witchcraft, includes various subdivisions, one of which known as “Wicca” is practised as a religion. Ipsita Roy Chakraverti is a self-declared Wiccan priestess in India. According to her, the Wiccan religion is all about healing the needy. She considers her witchcraft as a medium to heal those who are in need and has also travelled to various remote villages in India teaching women the healing power of Wicca, who were later accused of evil black magic by the male fork and later murdered brutally.

What is important here is to draw a line of distinction between what witchcraft originally was and what its deterioration and accusation has led it to become. Killings in the name of witch hunting cannot be denied as being more than prevalent in the remote areas of India, till date. Labelling women as “witches” or evil spirits who bring bad omen to the society, proclaiming the victims as “daayan” and subjecting them to inhuman atrocities is vain of progress that India dreams of.

Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Bihar have formulated laws regarding the same, namely:

  • Jharkhand has enacted The Anti-Witchcraft Act, 2001;
  • Bihar has enacted the Prevention of Witch (Daayan) Practices Act, 1999;
  • Chhattisgarh has enacted the Chhattisgarh Tonahi Pratadna Nivaran Act, 2005.
  •  Rajasthan government has also passed a bill “Rajasthan Women (Prevention and Protection from Atrocities)” 2006,

Which makes it illegal as well punishable for calling any woman as Dayan” or to accuse a woman of practicing witchcraft, which extends to three years of imprisonment and Rs 5000 fine.
But they come out as toothless pieces of law in practice as they end up providing for an even lesser punishment than the Indian Penal Code itself, which is otherwise referred to in such cases.

Legal Scenario

In Maharashtra, currently, there is a law against the practices of blackmagic, which is a tragic victory of Narendra Dabholkar, 68, founder-head of Maharahtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti. It is to be noted that the ordinance for the same was passed only after the protagonist, Narendra Dabholkar was mysteriously murdered by some bikers.

Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan said, “The forces which did not want this bill to be presented and passed are the ones responsible for silencing his voice.”

The “Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2011” also commonly known as the Black Magic Bill has rather been adopted through the ordinance route by the legislature for immediate effective application.

In Karnataka, the cabinet has approved the “Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, 2017” after omitting the word “superstitious” from the title. Rationalist Narendra Nayak said, “Even though such legislation cannot totally rid the society of superstitions, it will go some way to prevent exploitation of gullible people. Superstition can be eradicated from the society only through proper education.”
In Bengal as well, the state law commission headed by Justice Pratap Kumar Chhatterjee is planning to frame laws to prevent various black magic acts.

The step is being taken after the increase in murders in context to human sacrifices. But is this enough? Will these laws work? Why is it taking too long to frame them?

The answer to all these questions lies in Article 25 of the Indian Constitution that is being used as an incorrect solace for all these wrongful practices. Since the Constitution of India guarantees freedom to profess, propagate and practice any religion of choice, the law becomes powerless to frame any strict contingencies against the same. These practices along with the superstitious beliefs have been so deep rooted in the nation that they have now become a part of us, of our nation.

But if we critically analyze the exact language of Article 25, it mentions that freedom of religion is guaranteed as long as it lies within the ambit of “public order, morality and health.” Brutally murdering innocent lives for the sake of fulfilling selfish desires surely lies outside this scope.

More than 2500 Indians have been chased, tortured and killed in such hunts only between 2000 and 2016 according to India’s National Crime Record Bureau.

As for now what is needed urgently is the intricate formation of laws that aim at curbing such practices before it is too late to take a step towards the same. Only when such laws will be implemented pan-India, in all the states, will the people understand and wake up from their unreasonable slumber towards causes like these.