PATNA: If sorcery, witchcraft and other superstitions have disappeared from 200 villages of Bihar, there is one person to thank: Mantu Kumar. Born in a conservative family at Surafganj village in Madhubani district, the 32-year-old has led a campaign across the state, salvaging hundreds of people out of the darkness.
The inspiration to start this campaign, as it often happens, came from a misfortune. He recalled that once his father told him about a “miraculous dream” — that he would become rich only by winning a lottery. “My father sold almost all landed property and continued buying lottery tickets, but never won any. His illogical fantasy forced us into penury.”
Kumar decided to go after such fantastical, hallucinating mindsets and voodoos. “From 2004, I have been putting up scientific demonstrations as part of my campaign to educate people in rural and semi-urban areas,” he said. His campaign has gone beyond Bihar, to West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Sikkim, Mizoram, Maharashtra and other states.
In 2006, Kumar along with 20 friends launched ‘Science for Society’ in Madhubani for exposing superstitions through scientific methods. He demonstrates how soil changes colour while in contact with a chemical, a snake is taken out of a pit and how a pin is pierced into the tongue — some of the tricks used by “magicians”.
Kumar, who holds a master’s degree in physical education, bears all expenses that are part of his campaign from his pocket. “At times, friends offer me money,” he said. In 2006, he met Narendra Naik, current president of Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, who mentored him on the sciences involved in the so-called miracles.
A member of Bal Kalyan Samiti, he visits schools, colleges and other institutions to get the students rid of superstitions and such practices. He won the Rashtrapati Puraskar in 2009 from then President APJ Abdul Kalam.