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May 31 2012

Indian Skeptic to Challenge Blasphemy Law

I reported a few weeks ago about Sanal Edamaruku, head of Rationalist International, who is being charged with blasphemy for debunking a Catholic “miracle” — a statue of Jesus with water leaking from its feet. He faces up to three years in prison, but is preparing to challenge the validity of that law in the courts.

The 56-year-old has spent the last three decades exposing what he says are fake miracles and fraudulent gurus across India, whose top mystics and yoga masters have amassed huge followings and fortunes.

Edamaruku’s targets have included powerful spiritual leaders such as the late Sathya Sai Baba, who was revered by millions and famed for producing baubles out of thin air.

Now Edamaruku welcomes the moves against him as “an opportunity, not a thing to be afraid of”, he said, and is challenging India’s blasphemy law.

The legislation bans “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” — a rule Edamaruku believes runs counter to freedom of expression.

His lawyers are preparing to lobby India’s Supreme Court to overturn the colonial-era section of the penal code, as well as asking a court in Delhi to prevent his arrest.

Edamaruku said the Catholics’ response had been “like Islamic fundamentalists speaking” and drew parallels with the opposition to Mumbai-born British author Salman Rushdie.

Rushdie’s 1988 book “The Satanic Verses” remains banned in India for allegedly insulting Islam and the writer withdrew from a literary festival in January this year after death threats and angry protests.

“I always think there are two Indias,” said Edamaruku. “The 21st century, which is progressive, modern, scientific” and “17th-century India, which is pulling us back to the dark ages of intolerance, bigotry, superstition”.

I certainly hope he succeeds. Such laws are barbaric and dangerous and should be done away with in every country.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    tubi

    Huh, sounds familiar:

    “I always think there are two Indias USAs,” said Edamaruku every sane person in the US. “The 21st century, which is progressive, modern, scientific” and “17th-century…which is pulling us back to the dark ages of intolerance, bigotry, superstition”.

  2. 2
    timpayne

    Unbelievable, the water is actually coming from a sewer. Bet this was rigged by some Sikhs with a sense of humor.

  3. 3
    jaime

    Is there anything we can do for this man to support him and his endeavor?

  4. 4
    umlud

    But, “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” is NOT censorship”, at least according to the Indian High Court’s reasoning in reference to Google and Facebook’s comment being offensive to religious groups in the country:

    http://umlud.blogspot.com/2012/02/india-wont-censor-social-media-except.html

  5. 5
    Mobius

    tubi expressed my thoughts exactly.

  1. 6
    Roman Catholic Church attack on Human Rights and Benedict XVI’s cover-up | Arthur Frederick Ide's Blog

    [...] with blasphemy and imprisoned for debunking a claim of a miraculous weeping statue (read here and here and here and [...]

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