It is common for political parties to take jibes at opponents during an election season. As the political mercury rises in Karnataka, which goes to vote in May, the BJP mocked the incumbent CM Siddaramaiah for allegedly being hypocritical as he accepted a lemon from some rural folk as part of tradition, despite spearheading the Anti-Superstition Act.
In a tweet from the official Twitter handle, the Karnataka unit of BJP accused the CM of demeaning and criminalising Hindu traditions by bringing in the Anti-Superstition Act.
Campaigns with a lemon in hand, but brings in Anti Superstitions Bill to demean and criminalise Hindu traditions.Hypocrisy thy name is @siddaramaiah pic.twitter.com/AV9mGhD3Pt— BJP Karnataka (@BJP4Karnataka) April 4, 2018
Ironically, when the Karnataka Prevention and Eradication of Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic Bill, popularly known as the Anti-Superstition Bill was passed in November 2017, the entire Opposition, including the BJP had welcomed it. They even went on to urge the government to create more awareness about the many superstitions being practiced.
The legislative remedy was conceived in the backdrop of some very inhuman superstitious practices, including parading women naked, ostracising people (and even families) on the pretext that they have been "possessed", and the most horrific of all - child sacrifice. The act prohibits the practice of black magic, witchcraft or any such practice that has the potential to harm human beings or animals. Rather than being ambiguous, the Anti-Superstition Act specifically bans 23 practices that are inherently against human values.
Thus, instead of politicising the Act, the BJP if it indeed feels that it is "demeaning and criminalises Hindu traditions", should withdraw its support. Does the BJP support preventing a person from seeking medical help in the case of dog/snake/scorpion bite and resorting to “treatments” like mata-mantras, gandra-dora etc?
Does the BJP advocate parading women naked in the name of religion and faith?
These are just two of the 23 practices that are prohibited by the Act. In the name of tradition, does the BJP want our society to regress and go back to the times of Mulakkaram - a tax imposed on lower caste women if they wanted to cover their breasts in public, in the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore.
The party should come clear on which of the 23, (or all) banned practices it supports and feels is essential for the development of spirituality in general and Hindu faith in particular, as it has aggrandised onto itself the duty to protect the faith. It should also state how any of these 23 banned practices will help the progress of Indian society and Hinduism.
Further, if they advocate any of the banned practices, let them lead by example. Let them stop seeking medical treatment and rely on mantras, black magic and sorcery.
The BJP and its supporters must keep in mind that faith is different from blind faith. In fact, if they are really concerned about Hinduism, they will support every effort to purge the faith of such derogatory practices and not propagate them in the name of tradition.
Without reform, no faith, however great and ancient, will stand the test of time. Those who advocate extreme orthodoxy are indeed the biggest threat to any faith and corrode it from within.
Also, since the BJP and its supporters wear "nationalism" on their sleeves, they must read the fundamental duties of an Indian citizen. One of the 11 fundamental duties as stated in part IV-A of the Indian Constitution is to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform. Without science and rational thought, no society can progress, and India will be left behind.
As the ruling party at the Centre and in many states, the BJP ought to display more maturity and not stir up the hornet’s nest over sensitive matters like religion and tradition. If indeed they want to take part in the development of India, they must seek votes in the name of progress and growth. Election time is when they must talk about their promises and how they will achieve them. They could ask the public to audit the promises they made in 2014 during the general elections.
There is so much we need to achieve as a country and the BJP must cerebrate on how it will contribute to India’s development. If it has nothing to offer regarding development, it should at the very least not propagate superstitions.
The BJP must keep in mind that primordial practices don’t feed the hungry or provide jobs, but enlightened politics does.