Dr.Narendra Dabholkar

The Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti, a voluntary organisation engaged in eradication of superstitions has demanded setting up of a commission to study the extent of the effects of the practice of the so-called evil spirits and bhanamati (a form of sorcery).

Samiti working President Dr.Narendra Dabholkar today explained to reporters here that the findings of preliminary surveys conducted by the organisation had indicated that an unbelievably large number of people in Maharashtra were victims of such superstitions. The victims suffered because they were not aware that they were not possessed by the spirits or ghosts but were only mentally ill and could be cured completely with modern psychiatric treatment.

Citing an instance, he said Dr. Anita Awachat of the Central Mental Hospital had found out that over 500 such victims in and around Otur Village in Pune District were under the spell of the sorcerers, devarshis and godmen. She was able to cure almost all of them during the last one year during which she visited the village once a month.

"Now the relatives of the victims themselves are advising others to take treatment instead of going to village devarshis' he said.

The Samiti set up some years ago, had come across people, irrespective of social or economic status, who believed that evil spirits did exist and that some persons engaged themselves in black magic to harm their rivals.

The Samiti activists had on the other hand found that mostly women were victims of such beliefs as they were subjected to harassment and oppression in the family.

The women suffered psychologically and behaved as if they were possessed by evil spirits. Bhanamati, prevalent in the Marathwada region, was another form of cheating the innocent people he said.

Dr.Dabholkar maintained that the efforts of voluntary organisations would always have limitations.

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Last update: 8 July 1998