“I’ve had nothing but bad luck, since the day I saw the cat at my door...” sang Lucknow-born British singer Cliff Richard. There are many in the world who believe a cat crossing one’s path is a bad omen, especially a black cat. Superstition has been with us since eons. Superstition has been tradition with cultures, families and individuals. There are places I know which carry out strange ceremonies to cure people of mental illness, schizophrenia or epilepsy. People resort to this as a last option when all other medical avenues have been unsuccessful. Rationalists across the world have helped destroy many myths, fake beliefs and superstitions. It is very compelling and interesting to listen to many famous ones like Richard Dawkins or the late Christopher Hitchens. Both these men have long debated religionists but they have never campaigned to bring a law against religion or superstition.
So when rationalist Narendra Dabholkar of Pune was killed by some lunatics on August 20 our media and politicians immediately started point fingers at Right Wing organisations, particularly a group called Sanatan Sanstha. The spokie of this organisation has been in the media for 2 days since denying his organisation had any role in the killing.
The reason for suspecting them is that their website had a pic of Dabholkar with a cross marked across his face. This is how stupid and immature our media morons are. But this is consistent with their political propaganda which seeks to imply that only Hindus have superstitions or so-called “fake” or “self-styled Godmen” who deceive people. And an even worse reaction of the Mahashtra CM was to quickly recommend an Ordinance against superstition and black-magic. The immediate task should, as always, be to hunt down the killers of Dabholkar and get them the harshest punishment but the media and leftist parties like Congress, CPM and others were using the incident to start an anti-Hindu practices rant. Most of the protesters in Pune and Mumbai (on the killing of Dabholkar) were naturally from Commie organisations, red flags, banners and all. Maybe all these folks didn’t hear that even the former Pope resigned because God told him to. Well, why the Pope, even Lalu Prasad Yadav went to a Tantrik for a ritual to help him fight the fodder-scam case.
So where is an Ordinance going to draw the line between a belief in some ritual and religious practices. Almost all religious people on earth have some beliefs and superstitions. Jairam Ramesh refuses to occupy an office which is lying vacant for 8 years because some previous ministers died in office when they were occupying it. The DNA article lists a lot of PMs and other politicians who have been superstitious. Superstitious beliefs usually come from bad experiences one has had or observing unusually consistent phenomena. Some religious leaders prey on these beliefs and not all of them are Hindus. In 2005 Benny Hinn gathered a large number of people for some “miracle healing”. And who were his prominent guests? Let’s read a bit of the report:
“…After keeping everybody guessing, chief minister N. Dharam Singh, with family, state and union ministers in tow, landed up at the venue. Prompting an angry BJP to declare it will disrupt legislature proceedings from Monday. The show began at 6 pm, with more than an hour of choir singing. Clad in spotless white, pastor Hinn came on stage an hour later, and announced that he liked India and Indians. He also declared that he had come to tell people that Christ was alive. "Many of you are going to feel a presence on your body tonight. That's when you know you are healed. This Jesus I'm talking about will heal you,'' he said. Soon it was time for the VVIPs to be acquainted. Singh climbed on to the stage, and was embraced by Hinn. The pastor promised the CM that he would pray for the state and the country. Ditto with Union ministers Oscar Fernandes, M.V. Rajashekaran, and state ministers Mallikarjuna M. Kharge and H.K. Patil, and Bollywood actor Johnny Lever. Around 8.30 pm, Hinn requested the assemblage to maintain silence, "as I administer the word of God.'' At 9 pm, he announced that Jesus was ready to heal them and asked everybody to stretch their hands and pray. Many differently abled, wheelchairbound persons and other sick and suffering came near the stage to receive "the promised miracle''. Hinn then prayed for 20 minutes with his eyes closed and asked the people one to one: "Are you cured?'' Several answered in the affirmative. So ended day one”.
I recommend you read that whole report. The American miracle-man Benny Hinn was grandly welcomed by the CM, Ministers and other VVIPs. Now what would Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan call the show? A religious act or black-magic? This is where it is hard to draw a line between faith-based practices and charlatans. If people believed Benny Hinn, good luck to them. After all, he hasn’t killed anyone according to the report. The people were at his gathering of their own free choice. Were the handicapped persons healed for good? I seriously doubt it. But it probably made them feel better. Rationalists would laugh at it as they should and they should debate it, condemn it and educate people if they like but they surely have no business to demand laws and ordinances banning what people follow when it doesn’t hurt anyone. It is important to prosecute charlatans if they cause any harm or death and there are enough laws for prosecution.
In March 2012 there was a strange case of water trickling down a crucifix near a Church at Vile Parle in Mumbai. Thousands thought this was some “miracle” and rushed to get a glimpse. Sanal Edamaruku, a prominent rationalist, suggested this may be a plumbing fault and before long there was an FIR lodged against him Mumbai. Of course, it appears Edamaruku also made some uncharitable remarks about the priests tricking people to collect funds. The man is now in self-exile in Finland. Is Prithviraj Chavan going to withdraw the FIR and pardon Edamuruku? Mind you, the media and the commie politicians consistently accuse Hindu leaders and Gurus of being tricksters or thugs, without having to pay a price for it. So why is Edamaruku being targeted for calling some priests tricksters? After all, it appears the miracle-believers did donate money. We should be fine with people believing the miracles they want. We should also be fine with the Edamarukus and Dabholkars questioning these (without calling the religious heads tricksters and frauds). I am not aware if Narendra Dabholkar questioned this Church incident.
Is Chavan’s Ordinance also going to ban Santa Claus? Almost every Christian knows that Santa Claus is just a story, a myth. Seriously, somebody has to be crazy to think Santa goes around the whole word and gets in through chimneys to drop gifts. But it’s fun for children and it’s harmless. None of us can ever imagine Christmas without Santa. Here’s a Jewish man who turned to Jesus because he experienced a strange miracle. (Video: 1.44 mins):
Well, he held the glass out the window and it rained. Sometimes it rains and such sometimes it doesn’t. Some experiences can lead people to believe mundane coincidences as miracles. If the guy had prayed for frogs and it had rained frogs instead then maybe we could have called it a miracle. But if it makes people happy and even convert then it’s harmless. What will Chavan’s Ordinance cover? Even religious beliefs can sometimes be superstitious. People go all the way to Tirupati with Faith and drop a whole lot of money and gold to seek blessings. In a ritual at the annual Haj Muslims stone the devil and even the number of stones they should carry and throw are prescribed. All religions have rituals and practices and it is therefore difficult to draw the line. In contrast, charlatans are possible to identify and must be prosecuted based on complaints of cheating or fake promises.
Jim Jones who formed his own People’s Temple in the USA had his own cult following. After being hounded in the US he and his followers set up base in the northern area of Guyana, which came to be known as Jonestown. On November 18, 1978 over 900 members of this group were poisoned to death in a mass-suicide. This wasn’t religion, it was sheer madness. This wasn’t even superstition or black-magic but an extreme cult that led its leader to kill his followers in a “revolutionary mass suicide”. Prithviraj Chavan equated Dabholkar’s murder to the assassination of Gandhiji. I can’t understand the connection unless he wanted to make a “political” statement against certain groups. It will not comfort anyone that this criminal Jim Jones named his son Stephan ‘Gandhi’ Jones. It would be idiotic to even suggest that because of this Jones was inspired by Gandhi. Wouldn’t it?
Superstitions are an individual’s choice and cannot be eliminated with laws. Unfortunate as Dabholkar’s killing is, knee-jerk reactions aren’t an answer.The days when witches were burnt at the stake are past us. We have people on the streets that have parrots pick people’s future. Sometimes it’s even fun. I am not aware what the Maharashtra proposed Ordinance contains. But if it targets rituals and practices of only one community my bet is it will be challenged for Constitutional validity. In the meantime, the media will continue their propaganda (backed by certain politicians and political parties) to target Hindu groups.
PS: A report from The Hindu: “Are you tired of everyday stress? Sick of acidity problems? Your woes may end soon, if steel tycoon Naveen Jindal is to be believed. On Friday, Shashi Tharoor launched ‘Tiranga Bangle’, an initiative by Naveen Jindal’s Flag Foundation of India”. These two honourable MPs promoting the ‘Trivortex Bangle’ need to talk to Prithviraj Chavan.
Note: Video is from Bill Maher’s ‘Religulous’ (2008).