The return to superstition

One person is killed in firing by policemen when they try to prevent the sacrifice of a child by a science teacher and members of his family in Udalgiri district in Assam. The high court of Telangana stays Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s plan to demolish the state’s secretariat building, which he thinks is not Vaastu-compliant, and to build a new one where a heritage building stands. The state will have to spend Rs 500 crore if the plan goes through. Lemons are disallowed in the Karnataka Vidhana Soudha as they are used in black magic, which is believed to have been practised in the corridors of the state’s seat of government. Women are hounded and even killed in many parts of the country after they are branded as witches. Many forms of superstition prevail, and black magic, voodoo and occultism are practised in every part of the country. 

It is not only illiterate and uneducated people but even those who are well educated and from the higher segments of society, like politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen, are under the sway of astrologers, practitioners of black magic and other charlatans. Even scientists, who are supposed to think rationally, are prone to irrational ways and conduct. Coconuts are broken before rockets are launched and ‘rahu kalam’ and inauspicious omens are avoided for important functions. Many superstitious practices are defended as acts of personal faith that should be respected. This may be true in certain cases or situations, but it is a different matter when a crime is committed as in Assam, or the price of the faith is to be paid by the people, as in the case of building a secretariat for Telangana. The plight of legislators or ministers who have to fight supernatural elements invoked through lemons and other objects may well be imagined. It should also be noted that superstitions and the belief in black or white magic may not actually be very different from assertions of the extraordinary feats of India’s ancient science, like the achievements of plastic surgery or stem cell research. The roots of both lie in ignorance, lack of scientific temper, inability to understand science or deliberate blindness to it. 

It is a matter of concern that retrograde and unscientific attitudes and the hold of superstitions may be increasing. Rationalists are being attacked and silenced, too. The spread and growth of an irrational view of life and world may or may not have linkages with the changes in social attitudes and political culture, but there is no doubt that the spreading tide of irrationalism will hurt the society and set the country back.  

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