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.

 

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.”