The Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Bill, which faced immense opposition for over seven years, was passed in the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha (lower house) on Friday.
Dr Narendra Dabholkar, a rationalist having spearheaded the anti-superstition movement for many years, had worked for the passage of this act. Dabholkar was shot dead in August allegedly by people opposed to his ideology.
Dr Dabholkar’s son Hamid told rediff.com that he was happy with the bill’s passage in the lower house.
“This is just the beginning. I hope it is passed soon in the upper house and is made a law. It will help in preventing more innocent people falling prey to such inhuman ills that allow human sacrifices,” said Hamid Dabholkar. “Sadly doctor (Narendra Dabholkar) had to pay a heavy price for it,” he added.
The bill was tabled on the first day of the winter session for discussions. The opposition -- mainly the Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party -- had opposed the bill since 2004, when it was first passed by social justice minister Chandrakant Handore during (former chief minister) Vilasrao Deshmukh’s tenure. The Shiv Sena had opposed it vociferously.
After a presentation on Friday, BJP and Sena leaders demanded inclusion of a ‘savings clause’ which they said should specify removal of ambiguous words like ‘kirtans’, ‘vari’, ‘satsangh’, ‘dindya’, ‘satyanarayan pujas’, ‘varyas’, and other issues raised by various Hindu groups and Vaarkari leaders.
“We are satisfied and now support the bill. We never opposed a law that prevents human sacrifice but we were unhappy because it was ambiguous," said Girish Bapat, the BJP-Sena MLA from Pune's Kasba Peth.
Bhai Jagtap, a Congress leader, told Rediff.com that the Sena leaders’ stand was contradictory to that of their party founder, Prabodhankar Thackeray.
Thackeray was against religion, blind faith and other such practices. “Prabodhankar Thackeray himself had criticised in strong words religion and religious practices in his book ‘Devlacha Dharma Aani Dharmaachi Devale’ (Religion of temples and temples of religion). Are Sena leaders saying he was wrong? It is ridiculous to oppose such a revolutionary act,” said Jagtap.
Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil has issued a notice to appoint senior police inspectors as vigilance officers for implementing the act.
Patil cautioned that the act was not against any religious group.
“I have already issued notices to vigilance officers to take complaints under this act and register offences. We will be conducting workshops to train them to tackle offences under this act,” Patil said.