Dakshina Kannada populace is a potent brew of a sixteenth century mindset super imposed on a 21st century technology, mocks Prof. Narendra Nayak.
(Originally Published in Mangalore Today Magazine, December 2010 issue).
While people all over think of themselves as very intelligent, we of the Dakshina Kannada have gone a step further; we consider ourselves super intelligent! This makes us proud that no one can take us for a ride or in any way get the better of us. Now we have proved to be super-superstitious too. While we laugh at others for their stupidities, our own are conveniently forgotten. Time and again we have proved ourselves to be newsworthy at international levels. Whether it be the pub attack and moral policing, we are proud to be in the news. This time it is our turn to demonstrate we are second to none when it comes to being superstitious, as two incidents which happened this month demonstrate.
The first one can be called a tragic comedy, while the second one is a despicable crime against humanity. Let us examine them in chronological order.
The first one was at the famous Kukke Subramanya temple. It is famous for taking people for a ride, whether it be a cricketer or a film star, doctor or engineer. All those who go there, tailor, tinker, soldier, rich man, poor man or beggar the diagnosis, is the same- you have naga dosha, and that means either you or one of your ancestors going back several generations have killed a snake and you are being penalized for it! Not any snake mind you but Naga the cobra, which is a sacred snake and considered equal to a Brahmin. This can cause anything from ascites to Zollingers syndrome. If you don’t understand what these are, don’t worry it covers all diseases from A to Z!. But, the snake god is partial to skin diseases, and in fact very much to Hansen’s disease, also known as leprosy,while the rest of the world believes that it is caused by Mycobacterium leprae. So, one has to propitiate this god for having sinned. How to do it? Don’t worry, after diagnosis comes the treatment. After paying hefty amounts, solutions are found and everything comes to a fairy-tale happy ending! There are innumerable rituals here including the Naga Mandala which is the Rolls Royce of the stable. That it works is beyond question because if Sachin Tendulkar bats century after century it is because he came here; if Aishwarya Rai is happily married today, it is because of the god here. For the commoner there are less expensive ways to get treatment for their skin diseases. They can grovel before the god and achieve the same. Not just anywhere, but over the leaves discarded by the diners after having had a rich meal. Sorry, not the leaves on which the hoi-polloi have eaten but on those on which the Brahmins have partaken food. Again not on any day but on the Shashti day which comes once a year. We don’t know whether it is their saliva that is the active ingredient or whether the same is formed after they have partaken their refined carbohydrate -saturated fat rich meals or the banana leaves used therein is the major ingredient but the combination of three seems to be necessary. The fourth component is the gullible lot who believe in this but that is never in short supply in our district of super-intelligent geniuses! Anyway, if there is a caste factor in the panacea, there should be one for the patients too, and it is there! Most of those who seek solutions for their problems by rolling on these left overs (made snana as it is called in Kannada) belong to the “backward castes” and the Dalits. However, the temple management has clarified that the upper castes are not banned from doing it! The temple management has also clarified that they are helpless on this issue because it was a matter of ‘faith’. So this time again the footage of people rolling over the discarded leaves hit the headlines with all the national level channels gloating over it! There were protests against this by various progressive groups, including some Dalit outfits, but these had no effect on the government at all. In fact, the minister for medical education, Dr.V.S.Acharya, defended the practice saying that it is a matter of faith, skirting the main issue of whether any disease could be cured by the practice as claimed. The heads of the mutts, the various dals and senas did not utter a word about the inhumanity of this practice. When I was queried by many of the channels for our take on them, I put forward these points:
1. If some =one wants to perform these rituals for recreation we have no objections, as people are welcome to entertain themselves in anyway they like provided it is within the norms of decency and does not cause problems for others.
2. If curative powers are claimed then we demand randomised controlled trials for the verification of the same, and after it is proved efficacious it could be added as a form of therapy.
3. If people are being coerced to do it, then we, like all right-minded citizens, should oppose it with all means available at our command.
CAUTION: Graphic image ahead.
Before the controversy over the incident subsided we hit the headlines once more for the wrong reasons, and this time it was a despicable crime against humanity. On the 17th of December a child, a young girl, was killed by a gang of three at Sharbatkatte which can be now called the center of the city. She was killed not in a fit of passion or by accident, but as a ritualistic sacrifice allegedly to please certain spirits. The person who is said to have performed this despicable crime is an old man of 75 years, Kamalaksha Purusha. His accomplice was a lady called Chandrakala, and the relationship between then was dubious to say the least. This innocent girl was enticed and kidnapped from her by this gang who are her neighbours. When the child disappeared a complaint was made to the police who came to the spot and did not search the premises. Only after the public protested they arrested the woman who confessed to the crime and took them to the place where the body was concealed. Once it was discovered, all hell broke loose. The irate public threw stones at the police for their inaction who finally arrested both of them along with Kamalaksha’s brother. They have been produced before the court and have now been remanded to judicial custody.
While these are the events that have taken place an analysis of these issues is very much needed for an understanding of the psyche of these criminals and the attitudes of our people in general. The undivided districts of Dakshina Kannada and parts of Kasargod have their own brand of superstitions, with their brand of snake worship, bhoothas and such. There are numerous myths of human sacrifice. This added to the high level of literacy, higher per-capita income and ‘education’ have created a potent brew of a sixteenth century mindset super-imposed on a 21st century technology, and it is this combination that has caused these incidents, which are not isolated but are a sign of malaise in general.
The old man has been described as a weirdo by his neighbours. He is stinkingly rich and lives with his accomplice. The third person arrested is his long estranged brother with whom he had started speaking very recently. They have had nothing to do with each other for many decades until they made peace not very long ago. His wife died under mysterious circumstances, which people say was murder, but nothing happened to him. They say the police took him and he returned the same evening back to his house, where he was living at the time of this recent ritual sacrifice. The people of the locality also said that he used to perform all sorts of pujas and often blows smoke to hide what was happening. The angry people in the surrounding houses have attacked his house and damaged everything there, except the idols and the other items of worship found there.
The attitudes of society in general, the ruling Hindutwa party, the religious heads and the saffron outfits, have been very peculiar to say the least. Some of them made weak noises and threatened that no lawyer should take up the case of the accused. In fact, their advocate has sought police protection. Only one outfit, the CPI(M)-affiliated Democratic Youth Federation of India, staged a protest condemning the incident. The moral police of the district (in)famous for their attacks on intermixing of people, particularly youngsters of different religions, have been very silent on this issue. The pub-attacking, stone-thowing senas have not been protesting against this inhuman murder of an innocent child. The heads of the mutts who have been crying hoarse about Hindu religion being in danger day in and out have not let out a whimper about this event, which lays bare their hypocrisy. The Chief minister of the state, Yeddiyurappa, who has been always busy in amassing wealth for his family and trying to save his chair, visited the house of the slain child and promised two lakh of rupees for the bereaved family. But he did not utter a word about the rituals of “black magic” which have caused this. For he too is a big votary of such and is very much into them. During the elections and everytime his chair has been shaky he has performed such rituals to supposedly save himself. Not that the opposition is any better. His main rival, Kumaraswamy, the immediate past Chief minister, is also into these rituals. His father Deve Gowda who was once the Prime minister had conducted such pujas to save his chair, which had resulted in the mysterious death of an attendant of a buffalo which had been taken in procession in the area where this ritual was being performed. There was a public furore that this mute animal was going to be sacrificed on the last day of the ritual. But it ended with the body of the attendant leading this animal being found floating in a well one morning. This family are fans of tantriks who perform all sorts of pujas that are allegedly connected to “black magic”. During the last assembly elections they were supposed to have sacrificed a donkey to ensure victory for their party. That this victory did not come to pass was probably because those performed by the winning party were more powerful. This sort of a mindset has resulted in Karnataka being a state leading in software and also in black magic! This is more applicable to our district, which has one of the highest literacy rates in the country! The swamis of the mutts have been silent on this, because they too would like people to believe in stupidities like black magic as they can promise protection to their flock by conducting equally irrelevant rituals to ‘protect’ them against those. The so-called intellectual classes are more interested in furthering their own interests than to take up any sort of stand against such superstitions.
But there are some positive signs too. The Chairman of the state Child Welfare Committee has initiated measures to help the surviving children. The State Human Rights Commission has sought a report on the whole issue as a violation of human rights, and has asked the administration to initiate steps to stop such anti-human superstitious practices. We (FIRA) have planned to campaign against these practices all over the district to educate people that no one had or has any supernatural powers.
It is time for the educated, super intelligent Mangalorean to decide whether be a part of this supernatural skull duggery or be against it, for there can be no middle way. We have reiterated our challenge to those with supernatural powers to come forward and demonstrate them under fraud proof conditions and take away all my worldly belongings. Any takers?
Published in Mangalore Today Magazine December 2010 issue.
Professor Narendra Nayak is the president of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations. He has been traveling the country, holding demonstrations and teaching scientific temper to school children, for the past 3 decades.
Associate Editor: Siddharth Singh