The subject of defining faith and blind faith has always been one of the focal point of discussion between intellectuals. Since the debate involves reasoning about faith, religions, religious practices, it also incite passion, hate and sometime extreme reactions. Murder of a noted activist and rationalist Narendra Dabholkar on 20th august, 2013 brings spotlight on the need of a country wide campaign against superstitious practices. Within days of his murder Maharashtra government brought Anti-superstition law for which he was campaigning for a very long time. But now the question arise whether merely creating legislation however stringent, would be sufficient enough to curb such practices or does it also need a country wide public awareness and planned campaign to remove such deep rooted social evil from common practices.
Superstition is defined as an irrational believe or behaviour which profoundly based on apparent existence of supernatural objects, witchcraft and abject rituals which are against the very basis of natural science and common logics. In India superstition is deeply imbedded in social fabric. Some form of these believes and rituals are highly abject, inhuman and criminal in nature. There are several reasons for such superstitious believes in India. Religious factors are one the most important cause behind wide spread superstitious practices though the opinions are highly divided. Rationalist argue that basis of each religion that belief in the existence of God itself promote superstitions and supernatural phenomenon, however many believe that there is a profound difference between faith and blind faith. Though at the core the teaching of most of the religions don't preach superstition, however there is no doubt that religious teachings have always been quoted by the propagators of such rituals. It also involves social factors such as caste, economic and education status of the masses.
Though the situation is improving with improvement in education, health and economic growth, the process is painfully slow. In the quest of solution to the problem of deep rooted superstitious beliefs, we find the need of country wide campaign against this social evil. Till now 3 states Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh have already enforced anti-superstitious law. However if we look at the effect of these laws in those states either they are not effectively implemented or they are weak. This again raises a question about the sufficiency of legislation. As in case of anti-dowry law; neither the dowry cases nor death due to dowry has ever been stopped. But there are fine examples of many such social evils like 'Sati Pratha' which was eradicated from the society only once a proper legislation was formed against it. But the success of such legislation is hugely depends upon the society response. If we look at the history of some relatively progressive states where superstitious rituals are less practices like Kerala, Bengal, Tamil Nadu we will find that they all share the history of strong social or political movements against such practices. Whether it is Narayan Guru, Vivekananda, Arya Samaj, Ram Mohan Roy, Brahma Samaj, E. V. Ramasamy (Periyar) led social movements; they all have contributed significantly in educating people of their state against such rituals. The legislation against superstition only gives us a legal tool to fight it; however the utmost requirement is a country wide campaign to effectively implement it.
Success of polio eradication through Pulse polio program is another such story which signifies the role of coordinated country wide campaign. Despite initial hue and cry, people hesitation and religious opposition, this program was so successful without any legislation but purely due to country wide campaign against polio. Such campaign against superstitions should include following strategy.
Fight against superstition is not only the need of hour but citizen's fundamental duty. As according to constitution (51A), it is a citizen's fundamental duty to evolve scientific temper, Humanism, spirit of enquiry and reform. Scientific temper is the mental attitude that gives us the power of reasoning and reforms and it is directly against the idea of superstitious beliefs and practices. However by looking at education, economic and social status in India, it will not be realistic to think that a mere legislation or government effort can eradicate deep rooted superstitious behaviour from society. We need a well-coordinated country wide mass campaign to aware the common people about the harms of such practices and beliefs, simultaneously a nationwide campaign only can force the government to act strong and determined against inhuman religious practices.
Vipul Kumar Pandey