Kerala Human Sacrifice Case: Why We Need Laws To Tackle Black Magic Crimes

Currently, some sections of the IPC does address crimes emanating from black magic and occult practices. The catch is in the fact that the law only is effective in case a murder is committed.

NEW DELHI | Updated: 20 October, 2022 5:20 pm IST

The gruesome murder of two women in Kerala human sacrifice case may have shocked many of us. Do we really continue to be a regressive society where horrendous stories of ritualistic killings come to light regularly?

White-collar job holders and those living in gated societies may gasp in disgust, but black magic and regressive occult practices continue to be a reality in India, particularly in rural regions.

What also came as a surprise was the fact that the stories of human sacrifice were reported from Kerala, a state that takes pride in being the most literate and progressive state in the country.

However, such cases are not confined to Kerala. Instances of human sacrifice are to be found in every part of the country, literacy rate notwithstanding.

Who are the victims in the case?

Roslin (49) and Padmam (52), the victims in the Kerala human sacrifice case were natives of Tamil Nadu. The two women came from very poor families. Selling lottery, doing door-to-door sales or daily wage work was how they pulled through.

Roslin went missing on June 8 while Padman family could trace her since late September. The two women were brutally tortured, their body parts dismembered and then dumped to accrue financial benefits and bring prosperity to the lives of those who killed them.

Their remains were exhumed from the premises of the house of the accused at Elanthoor village in Pathanamthitta on October 11.

Who are the accused?

Little is known about the prime accused Shafi, 52. According to police version it was Shafi who convinced the other accused – Bhagaval Singh, 68 traditional healer-cum-masseur and his wife Laial, 59,  to perform human sacrifice in order to end their financial woes.

What are other such similar cases?

Earlier this month three members of a family were found murdered in Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur. The investigating authorities traced the reason to witchcraft. Another case from Pathanamthitta in Kerala.

As per media reports, a Tamil woman was allegedly allured by a temple priest from Kerala has been reported to be missing since July.

Why we need a law exclusively dealing with crimes of superstition?

It is still a mystery why the National Crime Record Bureau does not release data on occult and black magic-based crimes despite the appalling regularity with which these cases are reported. It’s socio-cultural or mental illness underpinnings  alter the very nature and the motive of these crimes.

If  crimes of this nature are categorized as a separate entity, those who practice them can be easily identified before precious lives are lost.

Currently, some sections of the Indian Penal Code does address crimes emanating from black magic and occult practices. Section 302 (punishment for murder) takes cognisance of human sacrifice. The catch is in the fact that the law only is effective in case a murder is committed.

In a hyper-religious country like India where Tantrik practices have been part of several spiritual traditions, alluding criminality to something that is thought of as sacred may trigger debates. But steps have to taken to define the criminal element and those who financially, emotionally and sexually exploit people in the name of healing people.

After the Kerala case, the demand for a separate law has peaked. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has promised to bring in an appropriate law to address such cases. Some states like Maharashtra, Bihar and Karnataka have separate laws to discourage human killings and exploitation by those who practice “witchcraft”.

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