Pegged at Rs 32 lakh, an innocent owl was on the verge of being a sacrificial object on-behest of a political aspirant, if not for the timely intervention by the Kollegal Regional Forest officer (RFO). In the last two-months, around Chamarajanagara district, the forest officials have booked seven cases of poaching and arrested at-least four-people in this connection. In their statement, the arrested admitted to the officials that they were procuring the animals on behest of unknown middlemen for ‘Vamachara’ or black magic practitioners to ensure candidates victory.
While Vamachara or the invoking of supernatural forces among political aspirants in Karnataka is not an unknown phenomenon in Karnataka election, but for officials at Kollegal, Doddaballapur and Chickballapur district are flooded with series of hits and misses of suspected transport of animals for sacrificial purposes. Moreover, it is the scale and the modus operandi that has baffled the officials. "At the instant case this week, poacher Rangawamy and Madesha both were paid-off at Rs. 3 lakh by a middleman to procure the owl, it was just that we had received a timely tip-off that we able to arrest the duo at Odeyarpalya-Kannur bus stand at Chamarajanagar. But frankly, we don't know how many other animals we lost to such mindless practice" a forest official said.
The bird whose legs were tied and held casually in a confined manner within a grocery bag weighed nearly 2.5 Kilogram. Handed over to the Kollegal police, the duo confessed that they were specifically told by the middleman to get a heavy and healthy bird as it was meant for sacrificial purpose. "We just received about 10 percent of the total amount, the tantrik bills the politician not less than Rs. 30 lakh," he told police officials in a statement.
According to the official there is a nexus of political-middlemen-poachers-tantriks. "Usually, the procurer of the animal does know who is the final receiver, the animal passes at least five to six middlemen, subsequently every broker adds their price. Most of the operation is carried our via mobile phone or Whatsapp, the moment a person in the chain is caught. The others simply discard him and switch to new sim and the case goes blind," a Kollegal police official said.
Explaining the Vamachara method, 47-year old former practitioner Shanmukhappa from Chamrajnagara district says that traditionally it was a 48 days old step-by-step process to ensure path to victory. "The bird is taken to the candidates home, initial rituals are performed and the bird is buried alive for 48 days, the candidate is supposed to sit over the burial spot, perform ritual and eat prasada meals while seated over it. After the 48th day, the skeleton is retrieved and black-magic is performed. This would ensure 100 percent victory," he says.
Earlier, they used to catch fox and detain it in their home. "Seeing a fox on daily basis was considered to bring good luck. However, the flip-side of domestication of a fox was at night they used to howl and their neighbours used to confront the home-owner for performing black-magic. Therefore the believers have given-up on fox and taken owl as a supplement," the forest official adds.
Officials said, the tantriks use poorly literate, unemployed members of the local tribal community for poaching of animals and abetting superstitious practice. “In couple of instances, members of Devanga and Budbudke community have been repeatedly arrested for performing black magic. However the case was not watertight and merely based on allegation, so they were let-off," the official adds.
Not to be mistaken that only the locals at Chamarajanagara were involved in superstitious practices, bordering to Tamil Nadu, there are several interstate personalities who lay claim of performing miracles and they find easy prey in the form of businessmen and politicians, on whom the stakes of money and power are always high. "It is just that black magic materials and tantriks are easily available here that they visit this place. We have reports of several clandestine visits by politicians, film personalities and businessmen at remote places and wee hours spending close to Rs 50 lakhs on superstitious practices," the official added.
In fact, the Karnataka politics is often synonym for its association with black-magic, in fact on Wednesday, a BJP candidate Niranjan Kumar's photo was found at an intersection road at Gundlupet. Recently, Narendra Nayak the President of Federation of Indian Rationalist (FIRA) stamped over a voodoo doll at a cremation ground in Mangaluru - the small chit inside the doll had the name written of sitting MLA and Congress candidate from Mangaluru City South J R Lobo.
Meanwhile, similar to the owl which has been released into the wildlife, Rangawamy and Madesha have also been granted bail and are tentatively free. "Locally, they say it’s just the bird what’s the big deal. But given the fact that owl is protected under 1972 Wildlife Protection Act, we expected some stringent action against the suspects, because we are sure in about a day or two they will get back to their old ways," the forest official says.
Black-magic continues to haunt Karnataka polls; Rs 32 lakh owl sacrifice averted