The Unconstitutional Anti-Superstition Bill of Maharashtra

The so called “anti-superstition” bill of Maharashtra which as been pushed through as an ordinance, short-circuiting the formal process of discussion and voting, because a champion of this law was shot dead by some criminals, is very much in line with the pseudo-secular policies that many self-styled intellectuals seem to be in favour of. I think this law is crazy and arbitrary because it is not for the government to decide whether my belief (or anyone else’s for that matter) is a superstition or not. So as long as my beliefs and actions do not violate any other law of the land, I have a fundamental right to believe and practice my faith. The anti-superstition bill violates this right of an Indian citizen, and goes against the spirit of our constitution. This law is also anti-Hindu and an assault on Indian culture – not because superstition is part of Indian culture, but because this law marks many elements of Indian culture as superstitious. Since even after looking around the net I could not find the full text of the law to read, I have to comment based on the limited knowledge that I have on this bill, with which let us see how this bill us useless and dangerous.
One of the clauses of the bill is that it makes it an offence to “To defame, disgrace the names of erstwhile Saints/ Gods, by claiming to be there reincarnation and thus cheating the gullible and God-fearing simple folks.”. Now, how does one define whether the “erstwhile Saint/God is disgraced or his fame is strengthened if a person today claims to be his reincarnation? If the bill accepts the existence of God and that of such saints in the past, why does it categorically deny the existence of such saints today? So, as per this law, Dalai Lama is a criminal. The law criminalizes “To sell or deal in so-called magic stones, talisman, bracelets, charms“. Will it be possible, and do they intend to curb the sale of birthstones which are believed by many to bring good fortune? If not, how are other stones, talismans and charms different from birthstones? If yes, how are these stones different from other jewellery? Is it (legally) wrong for a person to believe that a stone will bring him good fortune? If it is not, how is it wrong for someone to sell this person what he wants and what makes him happy? In a nation that does not ban cigarettes and alcohol (which have proven adverse effects on health), why care to ban innocuous talismans and bracelets?
There are many other beliefs and customs brought under the bill which are either harmless and not required to be banned, or which can be prevented by other already existing laws. In either case, this law does not serve any purpose. Further, this law directly curtails the right of people to practice their faith. If religious faith can be cited by some as a reason to not give maintenance to an utterly destitute divorcee (ref: Shah Bano case), why should this faith be denied to others? Do we want our country to be like the Europe of early modern period when people when arbitrarily dubbed as witches and burnt at stake?
Woodcut showing punishments for witches from Tengler's ''Laienspiegel'', Mainz, 1508. Anti-Superstition Bill can lead to similar harassment
Woodcut showing punishments for witches from Tengler’s ”Laienspiegel”, Mainz, 1508
“Rationalism”, like other faiths, can be accepted voluntarily and practiced. But pretending that it is “the right way”, and the only way, and forcing it on those who do not want to accept it is as dogmatic and evil as forcing on him a religion that he does not want to believe in. To sell rationalism as the cure for all social evils and troubles of humanity, and to present modern (objective) science as the only reliable an useful body of knowledge is one of the greatest superstitions of modern times, and I wonder if it will be covered under this law.
Notes: To see why there is no way to “rationally” discern “superstitions” from any other beliefs including claims of modern science, check out this article on Avalokanam. This law is also an example of how Atheism and rationalism as modern religions might end up persecuting followers of other faiths and become the very anti-thesis of what they claim to be.
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7 thoughts on “The Unconstitutional Anti-Superstition Bill of Maharashtra

  1. Delicate law to tread with. On one hand, it may be a good thing for people to be aware about the how crossing of a black cat may not have anything to do with luck (or lack of it), forcing it on people, especially connected with religious sentiments is out rightly dictatorial (in a democratic framework).

    And since you brought up Dalai Lama, it would be interesting to note that Dalai Lama himself said, "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview."

    I wonder whether there is any other religion / head of religion who is so accommodating and open to rationalism.

    1. That attitude of Dalai Lama is truly remarkable. I, however, feel that modern science has limited its own scope to the mundane, material world, and the subject of most traditional religions go beyond.

      As for superstitions and faith, what is justified belief/faith to one is superstition to another. You and I believe that a black cat on the road cannot affect our destiny, and so we can agree to call it a superstition. But how different is it from beliefs that you and I hold, which others may not be able to digest? So I think government has no business forcing their own view on the same people who have voted them to power (same sentiments as you echoed). If these people are ignorant and not capable of deciding for themselves what to believe and what not to, how can they be thought capable of making the right political decision?

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