Sanal Edamaruku, President of the Indian Rationalist Association and the Rationalist International, has been accused of blasphemy by the Catholic Church in India, and is facing the risk of arrest and court proceedings. Sanal, who has spent much of his career exposing so-called ‘miracles’, investigated the case of a ‘bleeding statue’ outside a Mumbai church in March this year, revealing on a television programme that the ‘blood’ apparently dripping from the statue was in fact sewage leaking from a nearby drain. The Catholic Church then started legal proceedings against him under India’s blasphemy laws, which could result in his imminent arrest. The British Humanist Association (BHA) supports Sanal Edamaruku and condemns the attempt to prosecute and silence him.
Sanal took part in a television programme on 10 March in which he investigated the crucifix in front of the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni, located in the Vile Parle area of Mumbai, which appeared to be producing droplets of water from the feet of the figure of Jesus. The Catholic Church hailed this phenomenon as a miracle, and some believers started to collect and drink the water in the belief that it had special properties. However, Sanal revealed that the water or ‘blood’ which was apparently being produced by the statue was in fact sewage which was leaking from a nearby drainage system. The Catholic Church then made a complaint against Sanal of ‘deliberately hurting religious feelings’, which exists under Section 295A of India’s Penal Code, and can carry severe penalties.
Sanal then applied for ‘anticipatory bail’ to ensure that he would not have to remain in prison if arrested, but the court has turned down this request. Although no formal arrest warrant has been issued, he could now be arrested at any time, and he has started to receive calls from the police in Mumbai asking him to report to the police station. His lawyers are advising him to leave the country for a while.
Pavan Dhaliwal, the BHA Head of Public Affairs, commented that ‘it is outrageous that the Catholic Church is attempting to use an oppressive and outdated law to silence Sanal Edamaruku. Blasphemy laws should have no place in a democratic society. We call on the Catholic Church in India to withdraw their complaint against Sanal, and to cease all legal proceedings against him immediately. We also call upon the Indian Government to abolish Section 295A of the Indian penal code, to ensure that no more blasphemy prosecutions can take place in the future.’
You can contribute to Sanal’s defence fund here:
For further comment or information contact Pavan Dhaliwal, Head of Public Affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0773 843 5059.
The Rationalist International: http://www.rationalistinternational.net/
The blog of the Indian Rationalist Association: http://indianrationalists.blogspot.co.uk/
A letter from the Sanal Edamaruku defence committee:
The YouTube video of the TV programme in which Sanal exposed the ‘miracle’ of the dripping Jesus statue:
Articles from the New Humanist blog about the case:
An article in the Herald Sun about the case: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/holy-toilet-water-cross-indians/story-fn6s850w-1226368814552
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.