Sanal Edamaruku faces death threats and jail for pointing weeping Jesus, as Bad Plumbing #Rationalism


Jesus wept … oh, it’s bad plumbing. Indian rationalist targets ‘miracles’

Guardian

Sanal Edamaruku faces jail for revealing ‘tears’ trickling down a Mumbai church statue came from clogged drainage pipes

CHRISTIANS PREPARE FOR POPE'S VISIT

A statue of Christ in Mumbai. Local people declared a miracle when ‘tears’ trickled down the statue at the Church of Our Lady of Velan Kanni. Photograph: Sherwin Crasto/Associated Press

When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage.

So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland.

Now he is calling for European governments to press Delhi into dropping the case. And on the first leg of a tour around EU capitals on Friday, he warned that India was sacrificing freedom of expression for outdated, colonial-era rules about blasphemy.

“There is a huge contradiction in the content of the Indian constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and the blasphemy law from 1860 under then colonial rule,” Edamaruku told the Guardian in an interview in Dublin.

“This blasphemy law can affect anyone in India – even a girl recently who wrote on Facebook against closing down a city because of the death of a famous local politician. She was prosecuted under the blasphemy law and another girl who ‘liked’ her comment on Facebook was also arrested and then charged with blasphemy.”

Edamaruku, who has the support of rationalists and atheists such asRichard Dawkins, is well known in India for debunking religious myths, and was already unpopular among Indian Catholics for publicly criticising Mother Teresa‘s legacy in Kolkata.

When the state “miracle” was pronounced, he went to Mumbai and found that the dripping water was due to clogged drainage pipes behind the wall where it stood. His revelation provoked death threats from religious zealots and ultimately charges of blasphemy under the Indian penal code in the Mumbai high court.

“India cannot criticise Pakistan for arresting young girls for blaspheming against Islam while it arrests and locks up its own citizens for breaking our country’s blasphemy laws,” he said. “It is an absurd law but also extremely dangerous because it gives fanatics, whether they are Hindus, Catholics or Muslims, a licence to be offended. It also allows people who are in dispute with you to make up false accusations of blasphemy.”

Edamaruku said his exposure of the weeping statue was also a contribution to public health in Mumbai as some believers were drinking the water hoping it could cure ailments. “This was sewage water seeping through a wall due to faulty plumbing,” he said. “It posed a health risk to people who were fooled into believing it was a miracle.”

He has been living in Finland since the summer. He was in Europe on a lecture tour in July when his partner rang to say the police had arrived at his flat. “I felt really upset because under the blasphemy law you cannot get bail until the court case begins. I would be in jail now if I had been at my apartment in Delhi,” he said.

He has spurned an offer from a senior Indian Catholic bishop to apologise for the exposure of the “miracle”.

“The Catholic archbishop of Bombay, Oswald, Cardinal Gracias, has said that if I apologise for the ‘offence’ I have caused he will see to it that the charges are dropped. This shows that he has influence in the situation but he will not use it unless I apologise, which I will not do as I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

“In a way I am lucky because I have friends and supporters in Europe. I am well known in India and have the telephone numbers of at least five Indian cabinet ministers. And I have some means of fighting back. But what would happen to the common man or woman if they were accused of blasphemy? They would be sent straight to jail without any chance of bail,” he said.

Edamaruku asked for “mounting international pressure”, particularly fromIreland and other EU nations, on the Indian government. Delhi had the power to halt the prosecution before a court case, citing a lack of evidence to pursue it, he said.

Mick Nugent, from Atheist Ireland, the organisation hosting the Indian’s visit to the republic and Northern Ireland next week, said Edamaruku’s plight also underlined the need for Dublin’s Fine Gael-Labour government to repeal Ireland’s blasphemy law.

“Blasphemy laws are very strange because they can be both very silly and also very sinister. They are very silly because you are talking about crying statues and moving statues or Virgin Marys appearing in tree stumps in Co Limerick. But on the other hand these type of laws are used in Islamic countries to jail people or sentence them to death. Or in Sanal’s case facing a jail sentence for his work exposing bogus miracles.

“The Irish government should pay attention to Sanal’s case and realise they must get rid of this absurd and dangerous law. Because we shouldn’t be so smug in Ireland. After all, we have had the hysteria about moving statues and a man bringing people to a shrine in Co Mayo so they can look at the sun and see the Virgin Mary.”

The Story of Rationalist Movement in India #bookreview


 
Review by Dilip Simeon

 

india calcutta bookstore

Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India-By Johannes Quack
Oxford University Press, New York, 2012
ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8; 978-0-19-981262-2 (pbk)

Review by Dilip Simeon, for H-Asia, a part of H-Net: http://www.h-net.org/ asia/

On March 10, 2012, Sanal Edamaruku, President of the Indian
Rationalist Association inspected a crucifix in front of a suburban
church in Mumbai. The crucifix had attracted hundreds of devotees on
account of droplets of water trickling from Jesus’ feet. Edamaruku
identified the source of the water (a drainage near a washing room)
and the capillary action whereby it reached Jesus feet. Later, in a
live TV program he explained his findings and accused Church officials
of miracle mongering. A heated debate began, in which priests demanded
an apology. Upon his refusal, the police charged him under section 295
of the Indian Penal Code for hurting religious sentiments.

This book is an account of the broader rationalist movement in India
of which Sanal Edamaruku is a prominent member, and a vivid
description of its origins, practices and beliefs. A monograph on the
radical avowal of scientific reason, it fills a much needed lacuna in
the annals of modern India. The clubbing together of reason and
science, is of course, a problem in itself, one that the narrative
enables the reader to discern. Borrowing partly from Charles Taylor’s
book A Secular Age (2007), the author coins the term ‘modes of
unbelief’ to refer to the rationalists’ questioning of India’s endemic
religiosity.

The story of Indian rationalism has an illustrious cast in Quack’s
telling. It includes Jotiba Phule, G.G. Agarkar, Shahu Maharaj, Annie
Besant, Ramaswami Naicker, Jawaharlal Nehru, B.R. Ambedkar, M.N. Roy,
Goparaju Rao ‘Gora’, Annadurai and a host of others. Much of the
activism that the study focuses on derives inspiration from Phule’s
Satyashodhak Samaj. This is because an important dimension of
organized rationalism was and remains the challenge to sacralised
social injustice. The roots of this challenge lie in diverse
intellectual currents such as the Bengal Renaissance and the religious
and social reform movements of Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu and
Maharashtra. The rationalists trace their roots to ancient Indian
materialism and the medieval Bhakti movement – this claim is a counter
to the traditionalist charge that the reformers were westernisers and
intellectual slaves.

Many Indian rationalists were strongly influenced by Western
intellectuals such as the nineteenth century American thinkers Robert
Ingersoll and George Holyoake. They also had personal ties with such
figures as the MP Charles Bradlaugh and his ally Annie Besant (who
played a strong role in propagating rationalism in India before she
became a Theosophist). Organizational links were established early on
with the English Rationalist Press Association (RPA), whose
publications had great influence, and encouraged the advent of Indian
journals such as the Anglo-Tamil Philosophic Inquirer and Free
Thought. Organised rationalism dates from the founding of the
Rationalist Association of India in Bombay (1930) that merged with the
Indian Rationalist Association in 1950. The latter body was founded in
1949, with a leading role being played by R.P. Paranjpe, a former Vice
Chancellor of Bombay University. Among its members were C.N. Annadurai
(sixteenth Chief Minister of Tamilnadu) and the well-known maverick
communist M.N. Roy. Even though not all these personages remained
within the loosely-defined doctrinal fold of rationalism, all of them
contributed to the propagation of what came to be defined in the
Indian constitution as a scientific temper.

The core of the book is an ethnographic study of the Andhashraddha
Nirmulan Samiti, (Organization for the Eradication of Superstition,
ANiS, better known in the province of Maharashtra as MANS).
Established in the late 1980’s, Quack describes it as one of the most
active rationalist organisations in India. ANiS has branches in most
districts in Maharashtra, publishes monthly magazines and conducts
regular programmes in schools, colleges and villages to combat
superstition and educate people on matters pertaining to sex, the
environment, addiction and black magic. Led by ANiS, rationalists in
Maharashtra have also initiated an anti-superstition Bill, that has
been approved by the Cabinet five times but not yet (2012) passed into
law. (Quack errs in stating – p 13 – that it was passed in the
legislative assembly in 2005).

The book undertakes an in-depth study of ANiS, its organisational
structure and practices. The relevant section begins with extensive
interviews with its president, Dr Narayan Dabholkar, who also edits
the respected Marathi weekly, Sadhana. ANiS’ approach – representative
of a broad range of Indian rationalists – amounts to an ideology of
humanism, and is exemplified in a statement made by one of its
activists: ‘The task is to link humanism, rationalism, atheism,
science, and the fruits of science – that is technology – the
scientific temper and the power of reason, in order to live a happy
and fulfilling life, both emotionally and physically.’(p 12) Chapter
13 contains an account of what rationalism means to its various
proponents. The account in this section evokes interesting tensions on
matters of accommodation to astrology and Ayurveda.

The author discerns that ANiS’s and Dabholkar’s ‘position with respect
to religion grew less confrontational over the years’ (187) and that
its main critical focus was on superstition and the misuse of religion
to exploit people. Thus, Dabholkar avers that ‘the caste system is the
oldest superstition of mankind’ (185) and Sanal Edamaruku describes
superstition as a kind of enforcement of ignorance (189). There are
small sketches of other agnostic intellectuals, such as Gogineni Babu,
former director of the International Humanist and Ethical Union, who
in an interview with Quack, cited art and music as exemplars of a
spirituality without religion. We also come across philosophical
problems posed by the fact of scientists holding apparently irrational
beliefs and indulging in religious rituals and practices. He cites in
this regard the late Professor A.K. Ramanujan’s remembrance of his
father, the astronomer Srinivas Ramanujan, who along with his
scientific work, also practiced astrology, held on to caste rituals
and reminded his son that the brain has two lobes (194).

The author makes an effort to understand the personal motivations of
ANiS activists. An interesting observation is that their most
characteristic stance lies in seeing rationalism as ‘primarily a moral
category’ (215). Social justice is seen as accompanying rationality.
Thus, the activist Sushila Munde asks him: ‘can any rational person
say: I believe in injustice?’ In another interview, Vandana Shinde
stressed that non-violence was part of rationalism, which for her
meant ‘to avoid violence and to try to find the truth’ (215).

The rationalist movement and its efforts to dispel superstition have
been the source of controversy. Hindu nationalist groups have attacked
them (and this includes attempts at physical disruption of their
events) for undermining Hindu culture and hurting Hindu sentiments.
Others have criticized the anti-superstition Bill for attempting to
deprive ordinary people of a rich source of traditional healing
practices.

The book is a rich source of information about what may be called the
progressivist spectrum of Indian thought – along the way providing the
reader with references to theoretical studies of secular modernity and
enlightenment rationality. These include Max Weber’s concept of
disenchantment and more recent work by Charles Taylor, Ashis Nandy and
Gyan Prakash, among others. We gain access to material about and
web-links to rationalist groups across India, and not just in
Maharashtra. It provides the reader with food for thought on complex
questions such as the relation between the aspiration for social
justice on the one hand and the struggle for rational thought on the
other. In India it was never a straightforward battle between science
and organized religion. Rather, in the words of G. Vijayan, head of
the Atheist Centre: ‘In India we find that the conflict is between
religion and social reform. In India we find philosophical freedom on
the one side and social ostracism on the other’(53). The narrative is
engaging and full of ethnographic detail about personal dilemmas,
doctrinal conflicts and rationalist performances. Disenchanting India
is a major contribution to and entry-point for the study of complex
and long-standing problems of Indian society.

 

Withdraw case against Sanal Edamuruku -#Rationalist #FOE #Miracle


JOHN DAYAL, VETERAN JOURNALIST AND MEMBER, NATIONAL INTEGRATION COUNCIL | Issue Dated: July 22, 2012, New Delhi, Sunday Indian

Sanal Edamuruku, or for that matter Rationalists International, were not names the Indian Catholic Church was familiar with before it ran into them in Mumbai, triggering an obnoxious controversy that has crossed national borders and is making news in the US and the UK. This is a purely Catholic controversy and does not touch the other church denominations in India.
Sanal of the Rationalists International movement has been a fixture on the more sensational Indian print publications and TV news channels with his exposes of godmen of which India has a large number. In the past, he has taken on some venerable names in this sector and has survived. He can, in fact, be thought of as an extremist and fundamentalist himself in his belief as the subjects of his enquiry.
On March 10 this year, Sanal was asked by the TV9 channel to investigate the phenomenon of a crucifix at the Mumbai Church of Our Lady of Velankanni which had started attracting large crowds of believers because of little droplets of water trickling from the feet of Jesus. Mumbai, like Kerala, Goa and Mangalore, has a pretty large concentration of Catholics, most of them by all accounts active members of the Church. People, and not all of them Catholics,  collected the droplets as “holy water”.
Sanal, in his widely publicised findings, claimed the source of the water from the cross was a drainage near a washing room percolating through capillary action. This was the same phenomenon which made the idols of Lord Ganesh apparently “drink” milk some years ago. The laity and clergy of the Archdiocese of Bombay cried foul, describing Sanal’s statement as an insult to their faith.
Father Augustine Palett, the priest of Our Lady of Velankanni Church, and the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) demanded that Sanal apologise. Mumbai Auxillary Bishop Agnelo Gracias sought to restore some sanity saying the church was “always cautious in attributing supernatural causes” to such phenomena and always striving “to find ‘scientific’ explanations.”
A criminal case was nonetheless filed against Sanal. The police have been going to his house in Delhi to arrest him. Sanal has mobilised a powerful international rationalist community to his aid. Not surprisingly, extremist groups in the Hindutva brigade have extended him support, presumably arguing that an enemy’s enemy is a friend, but conveniently forgetting the time they too were baying for his blood not too long ago.
As someone who is in touch both with the Mumbai church and Sanal Edmaruku, I am pleading the return of a sense of proportion in this issue. It would seem a clash of two fundamentalist groups. It also comes in the context of a satellite TV and Internet social media environment in which many prominent Hindu temples, seminaries and their leaders have been exposed, often in what are called “sting operations”.
Unlike the violence and hate campaigns unleashed on the Christian community by Hindutva strategists and cadres in many states, and by Muslims mullahs in the Kashmir valley and a few other areas in East and South India, Sanal’s is neither “persecution” nor “communalism” as we understand those terms. A section of the Catholic community is embarrassed and therefore enraged. Sanal is an extremist in his own way, especially in the manner in which he believes in his rationalist theories. To that extent, he is a bit of a social maverick. But he is “catholic” in his approach, and confronts all mythology and superstition irrespective of which group propagates it or how powerful those who believe in these superstitions and miracles are.
I believe Christ is absolutely capable of defending Himself, if perhaps not the church in India. These statements by Sanal or the probe by his Rationalists must not be taken as an attack on the church or on the community. It certainly is not an attack on the faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.The faithful of Mumbai think they are defending faith when they go on hunger strikes against books of fiction or films from Hollywood and Bollywood. But in reality they are defending their own positions and constituencies and do not want them to be exposed to the sunlight.
Christ does not have to drip water from crucifixes to prove the love he has for each one of us. His healing is deeper and needs no instruments. I have experienced this in my own life. Catholics of Mumbai possibly realise the controversy is not getting the Church any new friends, nor is it adding to its lustre.
It is time the church leadership really forgave Sanal. He has learnt his own lesson – not to mock at genuine faith of the people and not confuse a passing popular fancy for a “miracle”, however untenable, to say the community is being taken for a ride by the church. The police case against Sanal Edamaruku should be withdrawn as a sign that a mature Church in India needs no props for the depth of its faith in God.

 

India’s god laws fail the test of reason #Rationalist #FOE #Miracle


 

6 May 2012 , By Praveen Swami , The Hindu

Police investigation of Sanal Edamaraku for debunking a “miracle” at a church is a crime against the Constitution.

Early in March, little drops of water began to drip from the feet of the statue of Jesus nailed to the cross on the church of Our Lady of Velankanni, down on to Mumbai‘s unlovely Irla Road. Hundreds began to flock to the church to collect the holy water in little plastic bottles, hoping the tears of the son of god would sanctify their homes and heal their beloved.

Sanal Edamaruku, the eminent rationalist thinker, arrived at the church a fortnight after the miracle began drawing crowds. It took him less than half an hour to discover the source of the divine tears: a filthy puddle formed by a blocked drain, from where water was being pushed up through a phenomenon all high-school physics students are familiar with, called capillary action.

For his discovery, Mr. Edamaruku now faces the prospect of three years in prison — and the absolute certainty that he will spend several more years hopping between lawyers’ offices and courtrooms. In the wake of Mr. Edamaruku’s miracle-busting Mumbai visit, three police stations in the capital received complaints against him for inciting religious hatred. First information reports were filed, and investigations initiated with exemplary — if unusual — alacrity.

Real courage

Mr. Edamaruku isn’t the kind to be frightened. It takes real courage, in a piety-obsessed society, to expose the chicanery of Satya Sai Baba and packs of lesser miracle-peddlers who prey on the insecurities of the desperate and gullible. These actions have brought threats in their wake — but never from the state.

India‘s Constitution obliges all citizens to develop “scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform”. India’s laws, though, are being used to persecute a man who has devoted his life to doing precisely that.

Like dozens of other intellectuals and artists, Mr. Edamaraku is a victim of India’s god laws — colonial-era legislation obliging the state to punish those who offend the faith of others. Section 295 of the Indian Penal Code criminalises the actions of “whoever destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship, or any object held sacred by any class of persons”. Its sibling, Section 295A, outlaws “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class”. Section 153B goes further, proscribing “any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities”. Alarmingly, given the sweeping generalities in which these laws are written, truth is not an admissible defence.

In the decades since independence, these laws have been regularly used to hound intellectuals and artists who questioned religious beliefs. In 1993, the New Delhi-based progressive cultural organisation, Sahmat, organised an exhibition demonstrating that there were multiple versions of the Ramayana in Indian culture. Panels in the exhibition recorded that in one Buddhist tradition, Sita was Ram’s sister; in a Jain version, she was the daughter of Ravan. Even though the exhibits drew on historian Romila Thapar’s authoritative work, criminal cases were filed against Sahmat for offending the sentiments of traditionalist Hindus.

Punjab has seen a rash of god-related cases, mainly involving Dalit-led heterodoxies challenging the high traditions of the Akal Takht. In 2007, police filed cases against Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the head of the syncretic Saccha Sauda sect, for his purportedly blasphemous use of Sikh iconography. Earlier, in 2001, similar charges were brought against Piara Singh Bhaniarawala, after he released the Bhavsagar Granth, a religious text suffused with miracle stories.

Islamic chauvinists have shown the same enthusiasm for the secular state’s god laws as their Sikh and Hindu counterparts. Earlier this year, FIRs were filed against four writers who read out passages from Salman Rushdie‘s The Satanic Verses — a book that is wholly legal in India. Fear of Islamic neo-fundamentalists is pervasive, shaping cultural discourse even when its outcomes are not as dramatic as Mr. Rushdie’s case. In 1995, writer Khalid Alvi reissued Angaarey — a path-breaking collection of Urdu short works banned in 1933 for its attacks on god. The collection’s most-incendiary passages were censored out. India’s feisty media didn’t even murmur in protest after the magazine India Today was proscribed by Jammu and Kashmir in 2006 for carrying a cartoon with an image of the Kaaba as one among a metaphorical pack of political cards.

Even religious belief, ironically enough, can invite prosecution by the pious. Last year, the Kannada movie actress, Jayamala, was summoned before a Kerala court, along with astrologer P. Unnikrishna and his assistant Reghupathy, to face police charges that she had violated a taboo against women in the menstruating age from entering the Sabrimala temple.

For the most part, judges have shied away from condoning criticism of the pious, perhaps fearful of being held responsible for public disorder. In 1958, the Supreme Court heard litigation that grew out of the radical politician, E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker’s decision to break a clay idol of Ganesha. Lower courts had held, in essence, that the idol was not a sanctified object. The Supreme Court differed, urging the lower judiciary “to pay due regard to the feelings and religious emotions of different classes of persons with different beliefs, irrespective … of whether they are rational or otherwise”.

‘Insult to religion’

Earlier, in 1957, the Supreme Court placed some limits on 295A saying it “does not penalise any and every act of insult to or attempt to insult the religion”. Instead, it “only punishes the aggravated form of insult to religion perpetrated with deliberate and malicious intention” (emphasis added). The court shied away, though, from the key question, of what an insult to religion actually was.

Hearing an appeal against the Uttar Pradesh government’s decision to confiscate Naicker’s contentious Ramayana, the Supreme Court again ducked this issue. In 1976, it simply said “the law fixes the mind of the Administration to the obligation to reflect on the need to restrict and to state the grounds which ignite its action”. “That is about all”, the judges concluded.

That hasn’t, however, been all. In 1998, the Supreme Court upheld Karnataka’s decision to ban P.V. Narayanna’s Dharmakaarana, an award-winning re-reading of the Hindu saint, Basaveshwara. In 2007, the Bombay High Court similarly allowed Maharashtra to ban R.L. Bhasin’s Islam, an aggressive attack on the faith. There have been several other similar cases. In some, the works involved were scurrilous, even inflammatory — but the principles established by courts have allowed State governments to stamp out critical works of scholarship and art.

Dangers ahead

Indians have grappled with these issues since at least 1924, when Arya Samaj activist Mahashe Rajpal published the pamphlet that led the state to enact several of the god laws. Rangila Rasul — in Urdu, ‘the colourful prophet’ —was a frank, anti-Islam polemic. Lower courts condemned Rajpal to prison. In the Lahore High Court, though, Justice Dalip Singh argued that public outrage could not be the basis for legal proscription: “if the fact that Musalmans resent attacks on the Prophet was to be the measure [of legal sanction]”, he reasoned, “then an historical work in which the life of the prophet was considered and judgment passed on his character by a serious historian might [also] come within the definition”.

In 1927, when pre-independence India’s central legislative assembly debated the Rangila Rasul affair, some endorsed Justice Singh’s message. M.R. Jayakar likened religious fanaticism to a form of mental illness, and suggested that those who suffer from it be segregated “from the rest of the community”. This eminently sane suggestion wasn’t, however, the consensus: the god laws were expanded to expressly punish works like Rangila Rasul.

Perhaps Indians can congratulate themselves that the god laws have not been used to persecute and kill religious dissenters, as the ever-expanding blasphemy laws which sprang up in Pakistan. Mr. Edamaruku’s case ought to make clear, though, just where things are inexorably headed. If Indians wish to avoid the fate of the dystopia to the country’s west, its citizens desperately need to accept the right of critics to attack, even insult, what they hold dear.

In 864 CE, the great physician, Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Zakaria al-Razi, wrote: “The miracles of the prophets are imposters or belong to the domain of pious legend. The teachings of religions are contrary to the one truth: the proof of this is that they contradict one another. It is tradition and lazy custom that have led men to trust their religious leaders. Religions are the sole cause of the wars which ravage humanity; they are hostile to philosophical speculation and to scientific research. The alleged holy scriptures are books without values”.

Following a rich scholarly life, and a tenure as director of the hospital in Baghdad patronised by the caliph Abu al-Qasim Abd ‘Allah, al-Razi died quietly at his home in Rey, surrounded by his students. In modern India, his thoughts would have led him to a somewhat less pleasant end.

FIR against rationalist for questioning ‘miracle’


MUMBAI MIRROR 17 APRIL 2012:
My Photo
Man files complaint against Sanal Edamaruku who dismissed water dripping from Jesus statue as due to capillary action, saying he had made statements against the Church

Mumbai was the birthplace of the Indian Rationalist Association (IRA), founded in 1930 by Mumbaikar R P Paranjpe. Almost a century later, it has also become the first city to have an FIR filed against the President of the IRA.

The FIR has been filed by another Mumbaikar, Agnelo Fernandes, President of the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum.

CR 61/2012, Juhu Police Station, has been filed against miracle-buster Sanal Edamaruku, who is also founder-president of the Rationalist International, which has scientists such as Richard Dawkins in it.

The FIR has been filed under IPC Sec 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. The offence is cognizable and non-bailable.

The whole story began on March 5, when during a TV programme in Delhi, Sanal dismissed reports that the “dripping cross” outside Vile Parle’s Velankanni church was a miracle. TV-9 asked him to investigate and flew him down on March 10. Sanal visited the spot and took pictures.

Born to rationalist parents, Sanal has, for the last 30 years, travelled across the country demonstrating the science behind supposed miracles. He has exposed the man-made nature of the ‘divine flame’ at Sabarimala, and successfully challenged Hindu godmen on TV.

Later on March 10, Sanal attributed the water dripping from the Jesus statue to capillary action of underground water near the cross. His photographs, displayed on TV-9, showed seepage on the wall behind the cross and on the ground near its base. “I removed one of the stones covering a canal for dirty water nearby, and found that water had been blocked there. Once water is blocked, it will find an outlet, if not downwards, then upwards. Every student knows that trees get water through capillary action.’’

Sanal said that when he reached the spot, a priest was leading a prayer on the road near the cross; water from the cross had been collected in a bucket and was being distributed to those gathered there. He was given a photograph of the statue dripping water with the word ‘miracle’ written on it. He said he was not allowed to take a sample of the water for chemical analysis.

During the subsequent TV discussions in Delhi and Mumbai, Sanal accused the Catholic Church of “miracle mongering’’. Interestingly, in Mumbai, Archbishop Agnelo Gracias, who joined the discussion, categorically stated that the Church had not described the event as a miracle and would do so only after conducting investigations. The Archbishop also claimed that the Church was not anti-science and, in fact, it had established the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, of which Galileo had been a member.

At that point, Sanal pointed out that the Church had imprisoned Galileo, and burnt scientist Giordano Bruno at the stake, and Pope John Paul II had even apologised for it. He also asked the Archbishop what he had to say about the Vatican indulging in exorcism, to which the Archbishop replied that though he had not come across any case of “possession’’, he could not rule it out.

All through the discussion, the other panelists kept warning Sanal that they would file FIRs against him if he didn’t apologise for his allegations against the Church.

The discussion ended with Sanal declaring that the Church’s intolerance had resulted in the Dark Ages in Europe. “Don’t try to bring the Dark Ages to India,” he said.

Fernandes lodged a complaint against Sanal at Juhu Police Station on April 10. Another complaint was lodged at the MIDC Police Station. In his complaint, Fernandes states that statements made against the Church and the Pope by Sanal had hurt his religious feelings.

Sanal, who lives in Delhi, said, “The Indian Constitution enjoins me to develop scientific temper. Let them arrest me, I’m not going to stop doing my fundamental duty.’’

A Sanal Edamuruku Defence Committee has been convened by lawyer N D Pancholi. Meanwhile, Mumbai police have called him here for questioning

Immediate Release-Rationalist under threat of arrest for exposing the “miracle” #FOE


‘FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION UNDER ATTACK’

Sanal Edamaruku, well known rationalist,  under    threat  of arrest for exposing the  “miracle”

On 10th March, Sanal Edamaruku, President of the Rationalist International,   flew to Mumbai. The TV channel  , TV-9  had    invited him to investigate a “miracle” that caused local excitement. He went with the TV team to Irla in Vile Parle to inspect the crucifix standing there in front of the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni. This crucifix had become the centre of attraction for an ever growing crowd of believers coming from far and wide. The news of the miracle spread like wild fire. For some days, there were little droplets of water trickling from Jesus’ feet. Hundreds of people came every day to pray and collect some of the “holy water” in bottles and vessels.

Sanal Edamaruku identified the source of the water (a drainage near a washing room) and the mechanism how it reached Jesus feet (capillary action). The local church leaders, present during his investigation, appeared to be  displeased.  See the
investigation in detail on YouTube.hours later, in a live program on TV-9, Sanal explained his findings and accused the
concerned  Catholic Church officials  of miracle mongering, as they were beating the big drum for the drippling Jesus statue with
aggressive PR measures and by distributing photographs certifying the “miracle”

A heated debate began, in which the five church people, among them Fr. Augustine Palett, the priest of Our Lady of Velankanni
church, and representatives of the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) demanded that Sanal apologize. But Sanal refused  and argued against them. [The whole TV program is recorded. You can watch an abridged version of it on
YouTube.]

When  they saw Sanal  refused to bow to their demands, they  threatened to file a blasphemy case against him. And they did. On  (10th April,2012, Sanal received a  phone call from a Police official  of Juhu Police Station in Mumbai directing him to come to the said police station to face the charges and get arrested. He also said that FIRs have also been filed in Andheri  and some other police stations u/s 295 of Indian Penal Code on the allegations of hurting the religious sentiments of a particular community.

Mumbai police  has announced that they were out to arrest him.   It is apprehended  that  he  can be arrested any moment.
The filing of FIRs by Mumbai police and threatening to arrest a well known rationalist who has been exposing miracles and superstitious beliefs  for more than  three decades is a serious attack on the freedom of expression.

Clause (h) of Article 51-A of  Constitution of India states that :‘It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to develop the scientific temper, humanism and spirit of inquiry and reform.’In exposing the said miracle, Sanal was performing  his fundamental duty enshrined in our constitution.It is distressing that the Mumbai police has chosen to harass and victimize him for doing his fundamental  duty.

‘Sanal Edamaruku Defence Committee’ appeals to all progressive individuals and  organizations  to protest and oppose the reprehensible steps of the Maharashtra police in filing FIRs against Sanal and stand behind him in solidarity for the cause of  scientific thinking and freedom of expression.

N.D.Pancholi     11 April, 2012
Convenor,                                     Sanal Edamaruku Defence Committee, “www.rationalistinternational.net.”