Hindu group stages hunger strike in protest against Black Magic Bill

Mumbai, India - A Hindu group has begun a three-day hunger strike in protest against the Maharashtra government, which plans to pass the Anti-Superstition Act and the Temples Takeover Act during this budget session.

Dr Durgesh Samant, national spokesperson of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS) said: "Though the Anti-Superstition Bill has a good intention to eradicate blind faith and evil practices, certain sections in it seek to criminalise religious rites and rituals, holy texts, worship, customs and traditions."

The group, who work towards the unity and awareness of Hindus, thinks certain sections of the Bill, such as Section 13, attack the basic right of "Freedom of Religion" conferred on every citizen by the Indian Constitution.

The HJS is also strongly against the proposed takeover of the temple trusts under the Maharashtra Temples or Religious Institutions (Management and Regulation) Act.

The step is seen as an attempt to take over the huge amount of funds held by the trusts. But the government says it is meant to be used judiciously to ensure incidents like the stampede that claimed the lives of more than 250 devotees at Mandradevi Temple in Satara a few years ago does not happen again.

The HJS has demanded to know why mosques are not being taken over.

Dangerous rituals

The Maharashtra Eradication of Black Magic, Evil and Aghori Practices Bill 2005, better known as the Black Magic Bill, has already been passed by the legislative assembly and will be now placed before the legislative council. The Bill was introduced to stop and control the practice of dangerous and irrational rituals mainly in rural areas.

But the main opposition to the Bill is that it allows the state to seize material or documents and make arrests without bail and initiate criminal action against those who believe divine or supernatural power can cure illness or other difficulties.

Although objections have been raised that alternate practices like Reiki, Pranic healing and even some of the popular god-men could come under the purview of this law, the Bill, as a precaution states: "For the removal of doubt, it is hereby declared that nothing in this Act shall apply to the acts involving religious rites and rituals which does not adversely affect any person mentally, physically or financially."