Reason Under Fire in India
Posted: 20 April 2012 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]
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In brief: The public assertion that a religious statue isn’t actually crying has put prominent rationalist Sanal Edamaruku in peril. Arrest warrants have been sworn out and Edamaruku could be picked up at any time — merely for stating the obvious, in the world’s most populous democracy.

This isn’t about India-bashing — far from it. The contributions of this enormously layered (and oppressed) nation are countless, and indisputable. But the hounding of Edamaruku, at the behest of religious groups using a law that is a remnant of British colonialization, threatens to return their democratic system of justice back to medieval times.

And a man’s liberty, to say the least, hangs in the balance.

Rationalism is no stranger to India. The late Basava Premenand, with whom I shared many personal chats about the “godmen” of India, and Abraham Kovoor, whom I never met but who provided me — and the world — with critiques of those same swindlers, rank high among my heroes.

And now I bring your attention to the peril faced by Edamaruku, who is president of the Indian Rationalist Association, editor of the internet publication Rationalist International, and author of 25 books and numerous articles.

Local representatives of the Catholic Church have filed charges under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code which makes it a crime “to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”

The outrage? The priest of Our Lady of Velankanni Church, and representatives of the piously incensed Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) has demanded that Edamaruku publicly apologize for having the audacity to say out loud that water flowing from a statue in their church was a leak in the sewage system and not — as the Indian media and the Church had loudly proclaimed — a miracle.

Edamaruku has flatly refused to surrender to their demands, so they filed a blasphemy case against him. A Mumbai police official directed him to come to the station to face the charges and be arrested. Charges have also been filed in numerous other police stations. He remains at large.

The threat to arrest a well known and dedicated rationalist who has been exposing “miracles” and superstitious beliefs in his own country for more than three decades is a serious attack on freedom of expression, designed to harass and silence him.

Edamaruku has sought to exercise his constitutional right to develop scientific thinking, the spirit of inquiry, reform, and humanism. We at the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) firmly support these rights.

We can only imagine the conditions of an Indian jail, and we don’t want our friend to find out.

Edamaruku is in a real jam now, but this is hardly the first time he’s spoken out against belief in miracles. Recently, a wonder-worker named Ajay Kumar Gupta claimed he could cure HIV infection, cancer, tuberculosis or any known disease by splashing the afflicted with a bowl of fresh water. Gupta wanted to prove his claim, so Sanjay introduced him to JREF Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, and briefed him on the terms and conditions to be found there.

For some reason, we haven’t received an application from Mr. Gupta.

Now, this sort of really silly claim — throwing water to supernaturally cure any ailment — is not at all unusual to us at JREF. We get far stranger notions offered to us, regularly — everything from the ability to locate buried gold, fresh water or oil with a forked willow-branch, to levitating by thought-waves (or, frankly, any which way), are fantasies we must handle. And though we often think that we’ve now “heard everything,” that notion is dashed daily.

Dear reader, I urge you to visit http://www.rationalistinternational.net and see the way this remarkable man has fought unreason and prejudice in the Indian continent, often at risk of his well-being. I urge you to drop him a note expressing your support and encouragement, and donate to his legal defense fund if you can.

We need to take every opportunity to promote rationality and science in opposition to blind belief and appeals to ghosts …

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Posted: 21 April 2012 12:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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You really need to get in the habit of reading the front page again. Not sure when Alex posted it, but Robin’s comment predates your post here by two hours. wink

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Posted: 21 April 2012 01:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Well, a lot of people seem to be somewhat twisting this around a bit (what a shock, people making less-than-entirely-accurate propaganda where religion is involved!).  I’ve been seeing this popularly described as the sceptic exposes the miracle as being mundane, and then the religious people press charges against him because of that.  But that’s not really the case.

Yes, Edamaruku said that the statue wasn’t miraculous.  But that’s not really the basis of the charges that are being brought against him.  Rather, there are apparently some other things that he publicly said about the Pope and Vatican and Catholicism in general being criminals and liars that got people upset.  I watched the Indian television show segment that involved some of the fuss, but. . .it is a bit hard to follow the arguments in it, what with five people shouting at once and in several different languages simultaneously.  But it seems that among other things he said that the Catholic church was mainly concerned with scamming people.  And the members of the Catholic church in India are charging him with publicly and maliciously making untrue statements about the Catholic church.  Which would be illegal by Indian law:

295A. Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage
religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious
beliefs.—Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of
outraging the religious feelings of any class of 6*[citizens of
India], 7*[by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by
visible representations or otherwise] insults or attempts to insult
the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished
with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to
8*[three years], or with fine, or with both.

It’s fine if he scientifically shows that a possible miracle isn’t really miraculous.  The problem comes from whether or not he lied about other stuff in order to hurt the Catholics.  I’d hope that both religious people and atheist sceptics would agree that the latter is a wrong thing to do.  So now I suppose we’ll get to see if the Indian courts decide that there is enough substance to the claim that he slandered the Catholic church.

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Posted: 21 April 2012 03:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Tah - 21 April 2012 12:35 AM

You really need to get in the habit of reading the front page again. Not sure when Alex posted it, but Robin’s comment predates your post here by two hours. wink

Darn, I read the frontpage yesterday, must have missed it.
Ah well, all in a good cause.

 

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Posted: 21 April 2012 03:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Ok, I see now why. When I looked at the frontpage the bigfootshoes was still first story and not the mythbusters post that is now story 1.

@Alex: Please do not update the frontpage after I´ve read it.  ;^)

 

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Posted: 21 April 2012 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Okay. Sure thing!

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Posted: 21 April 2012 09:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Thanks!

*thumbs up* (smiley needed)

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“By the sweat on our brows, and the strengths of our backs…Gentlemen. Hoist the Colours! And you, madam, I warn you, I know the entire Geneva Convention by heart!”
Trust me.

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