Maharashtra assembly passes anti-superstition bill

The Maharashtra Assembly created history by passing the much-awaited anti-superstitions bill in the ongoing winter session of the state legislature here Friday.

The bill had been on the back and front burners of the government at various occasions since the past nearly 15 years.

It was only after the murder of its chief proponent, Dr Narendra Dabholkar on August 20 in Pune that the government swung into action and promulgated an ordinance, followed by a bill, passed by the legislative assembly on Friday.

It will now come up before the legislative council next week for passage after which it will be enforced as a law.

Dr Narendra Dabholkar
The anti-superstition bill, drafted originally by social activist Dr Narendra Dabholkar, who was murdered in Pune in August. File Pic

The Bill, with certain amendments, was adopted unanimously by the Lower House, where it was introduced on Wednesday by Social Justice Minister Shivajirao Moghe. Virendra Jagtap and Ashok Pawar (both Congress) moved certain amendments.

Davendra Phadanvis (BJP), Bala Nandgaonkar (MNS), Ganpatrao Deshmukh (PWP) and other members expressed their views on the proposed legislation.

"I am confident that it will be passed even by the legislative council (upper house) next week. I appeal to the opposition parties to co-operate with the government on the issue," legislator and state Congress president Manikrao Thakre said, lauding the government for the step.

Bharatiya Janata Party state president Devendra Fadnavis alleged though the bill was supposed to be passed unanimously in the house, it was passed on the majority of the ruling Congress and Nationalist Congress Party and in the absence of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and opposition leader.

Soon after it was passed by Social Welfare Minister Shivajirao Moghe, several opposition party members rushed to the well of the house protesting the bill was pushed through without discussions with a majority of the members.

Following the pandemonium, deputy speaker Vasant Purke adjourned the house for 30 minutes.

Later, an official said the bill was passed appropriately on Friday the 13th, considered "inauspicious" by many people.

Moghe, speaking to reporters later, welcomed the Bill's passage and expressed hope that it will have a smooth sailing in the Upper House.

Amit, son of Dabholkar, hailed the passing of the legislation and hoped the Council too will give the nod and said an anti-black magic law should be framed at the national level also.  

Hamid Dabholkar, (son of the slain rationalist Narendra Dabholkar), while welcoming the developments, said his father had to sacrifice his life for it.

Thanking the state government for taking up the issue, Hamid urged the members in the upper house to ensure its passage next week so that it could become a law.

In 1989, the late Narendra founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS) with a few like-minded people and raised his voice against superstition, irrational practices, blind faith and beliefs.

He confronted dubious tantriks, babas and buas -- people who claimed to have supernatural powers and preyed on gullible people.

Narendra was instrumental in pushing the state government to frame an anti-superstition law which was finally approved and passed as an ordinance a day after his murder.

The new law seeks to eradicate black magic, blind faith, superstitious beliefs, rituals and sacrifices to drive out evil spirits or ensure a male progeny -- perpetrated by self-styled godmen and witchcraft and wizardry practitioners. 

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