The Evil in God's Own Country: How Kerala has failed to bring laws against superstition and black magic

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The state of Kerala is still reeling from the alleged human sacrifice of two women in Elanthoor, Pathanamthitta. The police, investigating the case, has revealed that the two women — Roselyn and Padmam — had been sacrificed and then their body parts were probably cooked and consumed in a black magic ritual to attain wealth.

The three accused, a medic couple who ran an Ayurvedic massage therapy centre and the mastermind of the horrific crime Muhammad Shafi, have been remanded to judicial custody until 26 October. Laila, one of the accused, has reportedly confessed that she and her husband cooked and consumed the flesh of the victims. They were told by Shafi that this would help them “preserve their youth”.

Also read: Explained: How an agent convinced Kerala medic couple to offer human sacrifice of two women

The case has once again brought attention back to the need for legislation against superstitious beliefs and practices in the state of Kerala.

The ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] has condemned the murder and stressed the need for a new legislation to curb such superstitious practices, and urged strict implementation of the existing laws in this regard. “Such an incident which shocked the human conscience, cannot be prevented by law alone but a mass public movement and awareness should emerge in the society against such practices,” the state secretariat of the Left party said in a statement.

Laws against superstitions

Since 2006, there have been efforts in the state to enforce a law in the state against superstitions. The first initiative on the enactment of an anti-superstition law came during the 2006-2011 VS Achuthanandan government’s tenure.

However, that effort bore no fruit and an effort was made once again in 2014 when Ramesh Chennithala was the home minister. Then Intelligence wing head A Hemachandran had drafted a law titled ‘The Kerala Exploitation by Superstition (Prevention) Act 2014’.

Hemachandran, who drafted the law, had said that the need for such a legislation came at a time when the state witnessed several violent crimes related to superstitious beliefs.

“Two or three murders were reported during that period which forced the government to think about a law to deal with superstitious beliefs. I consulted with the district police chiefs on such incidents before preparing the draft. Then Home Secretary Nivedita P Haran was also interested in enacting a law. The draft was submitted before the Assembly subject committee, but I don’t know what had happened after that,” he was quoted as telling New Indian Express.

The proposed law provided for three to seven years’ imprisonment to those causing physical or mental injuries and loss of property to any person by way of supernatural or black magic acts. It prescribed five years’ imprisonment to life term in case of sexual exploitation committed under the cover of superstition or black magic. Capital punishment or life term was prescribed in case of death following superstition or black magic. Religious and traditional ceremonies, rituals and practices were excluded from the purview of the proposed law.

However, the legislation remained in cold storage and Kerala failed to enact a comprehensive law against black magic.

In 2019, another attempt at curbing superstitions and crimes related to them was taken up. This time, the Kerala Law Reforms Commission drew up a draft bill — the Kerala Prevention of Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices, Sorcery and Black Magic Bill-2019, which was submitted to the state government.

According to the 2019 bill, convicts would be prescribed imprisonment up to seven years and a fine of up to Rs 50,000. Moreover, the name and residence of the convicts would be published in local newspapers.

The bill also entailed the government undertaking awareness programmes on the ill-effects of inhuman evil practices and to provide proper counselling and medical relief to the injured victims.

The performance of religious rituals at homes and religious places, which do not cause physical harm, religious celebrations, festivals, prayers and processions and worship performed at any religious or spiritual places were excluded from the purview of the bill.

However, this bill too never saw the light of day and Kerala still remains without a law on superstitions.

In 2021, CPI(M) legislator KD Prasenan sought permission to introduce a bill to eradicate superstitious practices. However, the government did not give its consent.

Need for such a law in Kerala

The human sacrifice case of Elanthoor is not the only incident where murders have been committed under the guise of superstitions.

The CPI(M) said that data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) had revealed as many as 73 murders, in connection with superstitious beliefs, had been reported in the country in the last year alone.

Also read: Explained: Kerala’s ‘human sacrifice’ case and India’s shocking record of killings in the name of god

While commenting on the reports related to the murders, Justice Devan Ramachandran of Kerala High Court Wednesday in the courtroom said, “Some of the things happening here are beyond the limits of absurdity. Today it is human sacrifice. I wonder where Kerala is going.”

In 2021, a woman in Palakkad had slit the throat of her six-year-old son in an act of human sacrifice. She told the police that she sacrificed her son for the pleasure of God.

In March 2019, Thushara, a 27-year-old woman, was killed by her husband and mother-in-law, who had been practising ‘black magic’. Thushara weighed only 20 kg at the time of her death, as she was fed just soaked rice and sugar syrup as instructed by a sorcerer, according to the police.

In August 2018, Krishnan, an occult practitioner, his wife and two sons were killed by his assistant and helper who started an ‘independent’ occult practice. The accused killed his mentor and family, suspecting that Krishnan’s magical powers inhibited his own success in occult practice.

With inputs from agencies

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The Evil in God's Own Country: How Kerala has failed to bring laws against superstition and black magic
The Evil in God's Own Country: How Kerala has failed to bring laws against superstition and black magic
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