News about Ghosts spread like wild fire

A major challenge to the efforts of
eradication of superstition!

Since the period of primitive life, human beings have been leading their lives with a sense of insecurity, as the culmination of their reluctance to think over the mysteries,  which remained unanswered around them. As rational thinking advanced , science got developed  and reasons were found out over such mysteries, they felt some sort of security. However the spirit of enquiry continues to remain stunted whatever be the educational background and the position, people assume. They simply become the subject of mental slavery without the application of mind. They are more concerned in justifying their opinion by merely shielding themselves in the name of ‘faith’. Prevalence of this sort of mentality in human beings is the breeding ground for the spread of superstition.

The observance according to one’s faith personally, even though it is meaningless, affects only that individual. The faith in superstition has got  societal bearing which is detrimental to the cause of the mankind and its peaceful living. In this context, the prevalence and practice of superstition must be eradicated in its entirety. Superstition of any degree that prevails in the society continues to remain as the stumbling block for human progress. It stretches back the people from the positive path – treading. Much of human time gets wasted, which could otherwise be deployed constructively.

Recently, ‘vampire is wandering in the villages’ – is the popular attention catching news in many vernacular print media in the northern parts of Tamil Nadu, India. The print media have not discharged their due social responsibility. The news spread like wild fire in many villages. The spread was restricted only to the  ‘villages’. If this stress on ‘villages’ is understood properly, then solution will be automatic.

The social relationship that exists in the society is in one way advantageous to the spread of superstition. Many people do not believe in ‘vampire’. But they have to remain as the one in the lot in the observance of protective measures from the so called deleterious effects of vampire. To the extent they are conscious about the humbug of ‘vampire’, they could not resist it and oppose the superstition from its further spread. The villagers belief falsely that by inscribing ‘trishul’ on the doors of household and writing as ‘Go back today! Come on tomorrow!’ will wean away the entry of vampire. What a fantastic deed twisted against to fortify their households from the so called attack of vampire!

The Rationalists’ Forum of Periyar Movement, an unequivocal social reform movement took earnest steps as  Fact Finding Mission, and visited the news inflicted villages. Invariably the functionaries of the Forum interacted with the villagers.

The appreciable and positive point observed out of the interaction is that no one was definitive about the prevalence of vampire. Individually, they are strong against such superstition. However they have to get along with the stream of fellow villagers. The inscriptions in the house  both ‘figurative’ and in ‘script’ are uniform with the  same style of font and colour. This itself is the  proof that the inscription was not made individually by  the inmates of the respective households but  by a team of trouble mongers and few people who do possess certain vested interests. The people in the house do not have the guts to oppose while inscribing or to  erase it afterwards. The lack of guts on the part of the villagers is not due to the ‘fear on vampire’. The reality is that they do not wish to antagonize the fellow villagers, despite its deception.

In another village visit, it came to light, that the gullible villagers have been stuck with the news of vampire in a different way. The milch animals and other livestock suffered immediate and sudden death due to some diseases, which could not be diagnosed till now by the veterinary experts. When the specimen of  the dead livestock were sent for laboratory investigation and further  study, the news was spread as if the death of the livestock was caused by the attack of the vampire. The remoteness of the geographical location of the village from the main stream,  was advantageous to the rumour mongers. The ignorant villagers who were at the heavy loss resulted due to the death of their livestock had to believe on the line of the spread of false news.

The social coherence and the ignorance that prevails in the villages is the major contributing factor for the perception and practice of superstitions like vampire, sorcery, black magic etc. Such sort of perception is not prevalent in urban areas where, the fore said elements are missing comparatively. Urbanization is welcome though not in the eradication of superstition fully but at least in ignoring the spread of news of superstition as wild fire.

Inculcation of rationality and enlightening the masses against the belief of  superstition is the ultimate agenda to be accomplished by any lover of mankind. Periyar Movement charted out a whirlwind propaganda tour to visit the villages on war footing to  wipe out the wild fire spread of vampire wandering in the illusion inflicted  villagers . This  rationalist propaganda was aimed at instilling the confidence in the minds of the villagers, instead of  being carried away by the false propaganda, made by the vested interests.

The  cunning inner plan of the gainers who  prescribe compensatory rituals to the innocent and ignorant masses were exposed. Questioning approach, inquiring mind which are unusual among the ignorant villagers got inculcated in their minds. For the time being some sort of relief from the superstitious mental make up have been carved out. Permanent solution lies in the sustained development of scientific temper, spirit of enquiry which are directed as the fundamental duty of the  citizen, enunciated in the Indian Constitution.

 Article 51 A (h) says,

‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India, to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform’

Let us make the citizens duty bound fundamentally, in order to protect themselves,  enabling their escape from the mental enslavement due to superstition!


(Andre Beteille is a great scholar and researcher on the social issues, chiefly of India. Following is his speech as reported in the Times of India dated 30-12-2011.

What do our readers think of his views expressed here? Please respond.
We shall be happy to publish them. – Editor)

“New caste-free occupations are emerging rapidly, driven by technology, economic growth and the gradually weakening hold of traditional caste equations over society”, eminent sociologist Andre Betelle said in Chennai on 29th December.

“But in the domain of election politics, the caste factors are all important with television news breaks sensationalizing every incident in villages, encouraging politicians to capitalize on caste vote banks”,. he said.

While the emergence of computer programmers and software professionals is liberating people from the caste matrix, on the other side, TV channels show caste conflicts, arising out of unequal access to education and employment, to be on the rise, he said, delivering the annual Besant Memorial Lecture on ‘Caste in Contemporary India.’

The caste obsession is now seen more in cities as it is linked to reservations in jobs and education, he noted. “On the social side, inter-caste marriages involving subcastes within communities are increasing with removal of legal impediments over rights to property”, he said, adding, “young men are much more timid in these matters than young women.”

“In most parts of India, no party can afford not to take caste factors into account but while there is identity politics in play inother countries, such as Irish-Italian-Jewish clout in New York city, what is unique to India is the scale of it,” pointed out Beteille, who is professor emeritus of sociology at Delhi University and a Padma Bhushan awardee.

He recalled that at the 1957 Indian Science Congress Prof.M.N.Srinivas rang the first alarm bell arguing that democracy would give a new lease of life to caste, evoking censure from economists then who believed that caste as they understood it in the tradition ‘Chaturvarna system’ of Brahmin-Kshatriya-Vaisya-Shudra would go away as the country modernized.

However, over the years while the ‘Varna’ scheme that determined choice of professions based on birth had “become obsolete”, “jatis”, communities of sub-castes within the four classes. had mushroomed independent of the traditional religious groups.

In India, Beteille said, there could be “no simple overview” of the caste system as the “jati dynamics”, which had transformed the ethnographic map, evolved differently in various states challenging the egalitarian constitutional provisions.

“Now the contemporary jati language of social justice is about forward, backward and more forward and more backward and marriages between adjacent castes and sub-castes are on the rise,” he noted.