One Man's Plight To Take Down The Church Costs Him Dearly

Posted: Jun 8 2016, 3:51pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Political News

One Man's Plight To Take Down the Church Costs Him Dearly
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It seemed like a challenge ripe for the picking when a Hindu fakir declared, on live television, that he is able to kill anyone only using his tantric chanting. Sanal Edamaruku was watching that particular day and knew he had to take him up on the challenge.

The fakir was immediately put to the test - after likely assuming that no one would be up for the challenge, just in case.

Every other program was cancelled on the channel as the fakir started to chant on the spot. However, as the hours started to pass, he was getting desperate and viewers could tell. His voice was starting to wane and he was sweating.

Edamaruku, on the other hand, appeared not to be bothered. The head of the Indian Rationalist Association laughed lightly. Edamaruku is a man who has dedicated his life to demystifying beliefs about things like this. He wants people to believe in realism and rationalism instead of superstition. In the 90s he visited hundreds of villages a performed some of the "amazing feats" performed by "holy men" to show that they were nothing more than a slight of hand.

He saw this as a moment to drill home his point, even though he has attracted critics in the past. Even he admits that he somewhat took advantage of the moment. "I was campaigning in villages for so long before the television came," he says. "But some people do not like me to be going on television and reaching out to millions of people."

However, four years after that encounter, a steady drip of water from the toe of a statue of Christ put his life in danger - or so he believes.

Catholics declared the statue as a miracle and hundred flocked to the Mumbai suburb to see it. Some even drank the drops.

Edamaruku investigated the site with an engineer friend and the pair were able to trace the drip backwards. The moisture seemed to be coming from an overflowing drain that was linked to a toilet.

This "miracle" was nothing more than a botched plumbing job.

However, many people didn't want to hear that.

He engaged in a live television debate with Catholic lobby groups while a threatening group outside gathered sticks and waited for him. He thinks they were hired. The problem was that these Catholics manufactured the miracle in order to make money or bring people to them.

Three police stations took him in because of the blasphemy cases filed against him under Section 295a of India's colonial-era penal code.

According to the BBC: "Section 295a was enacted in 1927 to curb hate speech in a restless colony bristling with religious and communal tensions. It makes "deliberate and malicious" speech insulting to religion punishable with up to three years in prison and a fine. However, some say it is frequently abused to suppress free speech."

"Under this law a policeman can simply arrest me even though there has been no investigation... they can just arrest me without a warrant and keep me in prison for a long time… That risk I do not want to take," says Edamaruku.

India's colonial-era Penal Code prohibits hate speech - section 295a says: "Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of [citizens of India]... shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both."

He has applied for anticipatory bail which was supposed to prevent him from being taken into custody, but it was rejected. At the same time, he has been getting threats against his life that say he has to apologize.

There were also threatening comments posted on online forums, where there was talk about people being hired to beat him while he was in jail.

Catholic groups say they aren't behind these threats.

Edamaruku left early for a European tour. He went to the first country to give him a visa, Finland.

He arrived in Helsinki two years ago and thought he could just wait it out. However, the outrage has not died down.

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) made the initial complaint and are still pushing for prosecution.

Edamaruku is still angry and has seen so many of his friends and family die or experience life events that he can't be there for- including the deaths of his mother and best friend and the birth of his grandchild.

He still has board meetings with the Indian Rationalist Association on Skype and wants to take down the holy men.

That statue is still there.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai has been trying to help him in some ways, but Edamaruku does not want to compromise his beliefs.

"I don't regret anything I said," he says. "I feel that I have full right to express my views... I am open for discussion and correction but I am not willing to accept anybody's bullying, change my views or submit to their pressure to apologise."

He says he would do it again.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/46" rel="author">Noel Diem</a>
Noel passion is to write about geek culture.




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