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Ill Effects of Superstitions

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On the night of Diwali, 14 November 2020, a seven-year-old girl in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district was kidnapped and sexually assaulted before she was murdered by two men, who were allegedly paid by one of their relatives to get the child’s liver for tantric practices. According to the police, as per media reports, the relatives had been childless since their marriage in 1999 and were of the view that tantric practices that included eating the girl’s liver would help them have a child.

The incident is a plain case of illiteracy, bad shamanism, damaged cognition and emotional instability. The acceptance of superstitions and trust in magic leads to the belief in paranormal healing claimed and normalised by fake shamans and believed by many. There are many sociological factors responsible for it—regional beliefs, local population structure and social influences—as well as the belief in the powers of paranormal beings in solving problems of human beings. There is a social construction of myths and mythical creatures and a belief in devils, demons, ghosts, djinns and evil spirits who demand human sacrifice to solve human problems. People believe that such practices are to be followed silently and not questioned or analysed on scientific lines. Resultantly, the practitioners of such faiths even exploit childless women sexually under the pretext of curing their infertility. More often than not, these practices even encourage witch-hunting and witchcraft trials that further abuse women. It is noteworthy to mention that every year, witch-hunting takes many innocent lives in India. Women are humiliated, sexually assaulted and even beaten to death.

The need of the hour is to ban such local shaman practitioners along with a thorough overhaul of the healthcare system of the country. Besides this, there is an urgent need for research on the “paranormal in India” as the paranormal has become almost real and normal now, well propagated by cinema and the horror content available online. Further, there should be studies on people’s obsession for black magic (sorcery) and why the masses in some Indian rural belts still resort to such practices either for treatment or to harm others. The government has to stop bad shamanism if not faith healing in its entirety, apart from addressing rural illiteracy and control of fake shamans.

Adfer Rashid Shah

New Delhi

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