Hulikal Nataraj has been attacked several times by religious organisations, supporters of self-proclaimed godmen, people who practice witchcrafts and by those who claim to be possessed by gods or goddesses.
But this school headmaster has remained steadfast in his mission of exposing the so-called godmen and their “miracles”.
Mr. Nataraj recalls that it was an experience involving his mother which drove him to take on this task. In 1977, Nataraj had accompanied his parents to a man who used to say that god Shaneeshwara used to “enter his body” and help solve the problems of people at Ganganahalli in Tumkur district.
The man told his father to leave his mother alone near the temple to enable the god’s spirit to solve his problems. It turned out that his intentions were very different, as he tried to sexually assault her. His mother managed to flee from the temple. Nataraj, then in Standard 8, was nearby and helped his mother escape. But this incident made a deep impression on him and he decided to expose such people.
He was further inspired after attending an event by rationalist B. Premanand at National College in Bangalore.
The path he chose has, of course, not been an easy one. He was first attacked in 1987 at Kolala in Tumkur district when he debunked the claim of a person who said that he was possessed. The man attacked Nataraj with a trishul, which pierced his right shoulder. Several such attacks and threats of attacks followed. In 2006, he was attacked by the activists of a pro-Hindu organisation at Madikeri on a public platform, dragged to a police station and beaten in the presence of officers.
Mr. Nataraj, however, remains sceptical of any law intended to cleanse society of blind beliefs. “Scientific temper cannot be inculcated among people by legal means, but by including them in the educational curriculum in schools,” says the man who is a headmaster in a private school in Doddaballapur. “Only education can remove superstitious beliefs, blind faith about witchcrafts, black magic and other inhuman practices.”
Right now, Mr. Nataraj is waiting for the next new moon day when a man has said he will paralyse Nataraj’s left hand and left leg through witchcraft. “Let us see what happens,” he says with a smile.