It depresses me that there exists a strong South Asian folk belief in black magic. I’ve had family members tell me about the reputed power of “tantriks,” even suggesting that my health problems may be linked to long-distance black magic caused by hostile tantriks.
Indian rationalist/humanist movements working to combat superstitious or irrational belief systems have been growing over the past several years (e.g. the Indian Rationalist Association, Science and Rationalists’ Association of India, Indian Skeptic, as well as the umbrella Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations).
I enjoyed reading about Indian skeptic Sanal Edamaruku taking on a tantrik on live TV. The challenge? “Pandit” Surinder Sharma, a high-profile tantrik, was asked to magically “destroy” Sanal on TV. Sharma apparently believed in his own powers; he made a fool of himself on TV, chanting mantras, engaging in complicated “magic” practices, utterly failing to harm his intended victim. The distressed pandit complained that the atheist Sanal must be secretly worshipping a powerful god, and suggesting that he could try using stronger magic at night. The TV station dutifully fulfilled his wishes by offering a nighttime rematch, where he failed again.
(via Sepia Mutiny News)