Satan worship concerns Christians in northeast India

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AIZAWL, India, 1 September 2000 (Newsroom) -- Religious leaders in the predominantly Christian state of Mizoram have asked police to investigate recent incidents of Satan worship involving teenagers, a trend that some officials blame on television shows about the paranormal and the occult.

"This is not good for our society or any society," said the Reverend Vanalalrhuajwa of the Presbyterian Church Synod in Mizoram.

The sudden rise in popularity of devil worship in the last three months so alarmed parents and teenagers that Presbyterian elders asked four faculty members at Aizawl Theological College to study the problem. Their report appeared to confirm the fears of church leaders, who then asked police to intervene.

One church elder who asked not to be named described an incident where high school boys and girls formed a circle in a cemetery late at night, chanting invocations to Satan. In the center of the circle was a monkey skull with the inscription ``Natas Si Dog'' -- ``God is Satan," in reverse. Police said the students then slashed their wrists in a ritual offering of blood.

Aizawl police Superintendent Zorammawaaia said the phenomenon has taken authorities by surprise because the population in this tiny, northeastern state is about 90 percent Christian, primarily Presbyterian. Like many Indians, the police superintendent goes by a single name.

Police do not know how many students may be involved, but Zorammawaaia suggested that the Satan worshipers probably are influenced by television shows about witchcraft and other black magic.

About 25 million homes in India have cable television, which gives them access to programs such as "The X Files," the American show about FBI agents who investigate paranormal and unexplained incidents, and Indian programs such as "Aahat," "Anhonee" and "Woh."

Producers of programs such as "Aahat," for example, say they are emphasizing the supernatural over more traditional horror themes because that is what audiences want. They also are targeting younger children. For example, in one episode of "Aahat" a doll that is possessed by an evil spirit persuades a young girl to trade places, then refuses to relinquish the girl’s body. The show received the highest ratings ever for a television show in India and was the topic of conversation in schools for days afterward.

"We are just entertaining the people for 25 minutes," "Aahat" producer Pradeep Upoor said in defense of the show. "Once you tune in to our program it won't let you go. Just like the doll."

In a Hindu culture that believes in reincarnation, shows that depict people who come back to life to exact revenge have great appeal, according to psychiatrist Harish Shetty.

"When horror shows show the victim wreaking vengeance after he/she dies, it appeals to the primitive emotions of human beings," he said. "The children enjoy it. They are scared but, like their parents, they are excited by life after life."

Not everyone shares that excitement, however. One 7-year-old girl wrote to the High Court describing how "Aahat" scared her. In Delhi, a city court observed that some "horror serials" were detrimental to the mental health of children.

"We need to teach these young people and ensure they do not indulge in these kinds of weird religious practices," the Reverend Vanalalrhuajwa insisted.

Copyright © 2000 Newsroom.
Used with permission.

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