Kerala: Idukki murders only tip of iceberg as black magic, occult practices take over India's most literate state

A huge demand for a law to deal with superstitious beliefs and occult practices echoed across Kerala last year, when a youth who was engaged in supernatural experiments brutally killed his parents, sister and aunt in Thiruvananthapuram. The demand has returned with renewed vigour 16 months after the ghastly incident. What has spurred the fresh demand is the murder of four members of a family in the hilly district of Idukki. Curiously, the victims are a sorcerer, his wife and two children, and the person who committed the murder is suspected to be his former disciple.

While the youth in Thiruvananthapuram is still not in an appropriate frame of mind to provide a credible reason for the crime, the police probe into the murder of Krishnan (52), wife Susheela (50), daughter Arsha (22) and son Arjun (20) at their home in Thodupuzha (Idukki district) indicates that Krishnan's former apprentice, Aneesh had allegedly murdered the four in his bid to eliminate his mentor to regain the magical powers that he believed were rendered ineffective by the former through his own magical powers.

The police team investigating the murder came to this conclusion after questioning Aneesh's accomplice Libeesh (28). Idukki district police chief KB Venugopal said that the information they extracted from interrogating Libeesh had revealed that professional rivalry between Aneesh and his former mentor had led to the diabolical murder.

 Kerala: Idukki murders only tip of iceberg as black magic, occult practices take over Indias most literate state

Representational image. Reuters

"Aneesh had acquired additional skills in sorcery from another practitioner of black magic after he learnt the basic skills from Krishnan. When the power did not work with his clients after he set up a separate branch, Aneesh believed that it was because his power was weakened by his mentor," Venugopal said.

He said that Aneesh believed that by murdering Krishnan, he could get back his black magic powers. He also had an eye on the palm leaf scriptures that dealt with black magic practices besides the money and jewellery that Krishnan had in his possession, the senior police officer added. As the professional rivalry between the two grew, Aneesh hatched a conspiracy six months ago to eliminate Krishnan and sought the help of his old friend Libeesh to carry out the crime.

Aneesh, who was aware that Krishnan's family was cut off from neighbours and relatives, arrived at the house during the night on 29 July along with Libeesh and struck down the family members one-by-one with a silencer pipe from an Enfield Bullet motorcycle, the police said. When the duo returned two days later, it found Krishnan's son alive. They hit his head with a shovel to ensure his death. However, Arjun was not dead when his body was buried in a pit behind the house along with the other three. The police said that even Krishnan was buried alive.

The accused had slaughtered a black hen to ward off the police. However, the magic did not work. Both landed in the police net less than a week after the crime came to light. The brutal murders have once again turned the focus to the thriving black magic market in Kerala, which boasts of high literacy and progressive thinking. Psychiatrist Dr Mohan Roy, who assisted the state police in verifying the claims of the accused (in the Thiruvananthapuram family murder case) that he had murdered his family members as part of an experiment to "detach human souls from their bodies” said Kerala’s claim of progressive thinking was hollow.

He said a growing number of people in the state was coming under the spell of black magic and other occult practices. While people in advanced countries have started drifting away from religion, Keralites are going back to the primitive practices despite strong renaissance waves sweeping the state. "This is a sign of mental illness afflicting the population. The flourishing black magic market shows that the disease has assumed epidemic proportion. Both the people who seek magic remedy for their problems and the sorcerers who sell these remedies need mental treatment," the psychiatrist said.

Black magic has been in vogue in Kerala from ancient times and no community is free from it.

According to a medieval legend, a Christian priest known as Kadamattathu Kathanar gained superhero status among the people through display of supernatural powers. Recently, even a bishop was found indulging in practices bordering on black magic and was suspended from the Church. John Thattungal made a young woman stay with him while serving as bishop at Kochi saying she had divine powers. He had taken the blood of the woman and blessed his house with it.

Many Christian cults are thriving in the state offering healing and divine solutions to the believers. 'Spirit in Jesus', a cult-like group that came up in the state in 1989 with the objective of saving mankind, gained a foothold across the world with a claim that it could 'evoke' the souls of the dead on the earth and free them of their sins. Devil (Satanic) worship is another form that is gaining ground in a big way in the state. The Satan-worshippers are trying to spread their net in the state by making fake claims that they can solve people’s problems and bring riches, besides destroying their enemies.

A similar cult that is popular among Hindus is Chathans, who have been practicing black arts for centuries for those seeking fortunes and relief from sufferings. The sect, that is based in Peringottukara village in Thrissur, worships a dark avatar of Vishnu as its deity. Most castes including the upper caste Nampoothiris in the Hindu community have been practicing black magic in different forms from ancient times. The Namboothiris used to practice sorcery in accordance with ancient texts.

Their origins lie in the combination of 12 spirits — of which six were meant for the propitiation of evil spirits and the other six for the good ones. Three well-known Nampoothiri magician families in the state are Kallur, Kattumatan and Akavoor.

Occult practices are also popular among Muslims. It is practiced mostly in the form of faith healing. The Thangal family, that claims to be direct descendants of Prophet Muhammad’s family, are popular religious healers in the community and traditionally hold reins of Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), a dominant political arm of the community. Dr Zubair, who is a medical graduate from Kozhikode Medical College, has been practising Islamic treatment saying that some of the disease are caused by evil forces. He also has a huge following in West Asia.

Former state police chief PJ Alexander said that black magic is thriving in Kerala because Keralites want easy money and quick solutions. He does not think that this can be checked through law. "Black magic will flourish as long as there is demand for it. The only solution to the problem is creation of scientific temper among people. Rationalists, who led several movements against superstitious beliefs in the past, have disappeared from the social space now," he added.

KN Anil Kumar, president of the Kerala Rationalists Association, said its campaigns were not yielding result as sorcerers were more powerful and resourceful. They are luring gullible people through extensive ad campaign in the media, including television channels and social media. "At least a ban on the advertisements can check the menace to a great extent. The law introduced by Maharashtra government against superstition and black magic in 2013 has yielded positive results. A similar law is the need of the hour in Kerala," he added.

Anil Kumar said Kerala will become a lunatic asylum as predicted by revered Swami Vivekananda if the state government does not intervene immediately in checking this evil.

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Updated Date: Aug 08, 2018 11:59:48 IST