Indian Atheists Page Blocked On Facebook

Sorry, are you trying to promote rationalism and secular humanism in India, you may be unsafe for Facebook.

The Facebook page Indian Atheists is an initiative by the Nirmukta community. Our mission is to bring together a community of Indian Atheists and to build a society based on science, reason and humanistic values.

Yesterday we found that content from this page could not be shared as it has been flagged as unsafe. Facebook policies are such that, in case of an objectionable content, the said post would be removed by Facebook. But we found that no specific post was removed as objectionable. Instead the entire Indian Atheists page has been flagged as unsafe and we are not able to share our posts or tag Indian Atheists in any post, not even as comments in closed groups.

People trying to tag the page got this message:

Many of our members have informed Facebook that our page follows Facebook guidelines and that the ban is unwarranted by using the “let us know” button. But so far we have received no response.

It is not that the Indian Atheists page has never faced problems. We keep getting threats from haters in the form of messages. We have always heard of atheist pages being easily blocked on Facebook because of “hurting religious sentiments” and given the hostile environment in India, have always tried to keep within the limits set by Facebook. But we are not sure of the reason for the ban.

We keep surmising about the possible reasons. Was it our stance against Hindutva, or posts against endorsement of homeopathy and other “alternate medicines” issued by Delhi government in Delhi metro? Was it our articles on the mid-brain activation scam, that plagues our country, has upset a lot of practitioners of the scam? Or was it the article that talked about beef eating practices in ancient India and criticised the banning of beef in some states? Recently we have also been posting frequently against the derecognition of the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras which could have offended the religious and caste apologists. We are left wondering which of our reason-based humanistic posts has offended the sensibilities of bigots and reactionaries.

We the humanists are offended by this gagging of our page and we react to this in a humanistic manner. The voice of reason cannot be stifled for long. And when we regain our voice be rest assured we will speak even more loudly the language of reason and humanism. So long!

(This is an edited version of the article first published at Nirmukta)

Update (Jun-9-2015):

The same way Indian Atheists was restricted, it has been unblocked without any official statement from Facebook. We were neither notified about the blocking, nor the unblocking.

We are now able to share any post from the page without facing any restriction. We wish to thank all members, fans and well wishers who raised their voice enough. It wouldn’t have been possible without you. We cannot emphasize this enough.

We will continue to promote science, secular humanism and freethought on the page and our groups.

Bhagwati Denies Communalism

Jagdish Bhagwati in an interview with Barkha Dutta (Source: NDTV website)


Jagdish Bhagwati’s opinions aired on NDTV and his op-ed in LiveMint are both laughable and obnoxious.

In the op-ed he begins with the classic Friend Argument. Talking about how his family and friends are ‘minorities’ and how that makes him “pro-minorities”, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.

He then goes on to use the not-all-Hindus rhetoric, painting a picture of the likes of Mohan Bhagwat (who controls the biggest Hindutva group, the parent organisation of the ruling party, and not to mention the fact that he is the mentor of the Prime Minister) as being outliers among Hindus. He also denies that the Modi government has any responsibility over nutjobs like Bhagwat. While I do not think that every single Hindu is responsible for Bhagwat or the attacks, shrugging them off as fringe elements, when they clearly are not (especially when they are afforded generous platforms in national public TV and radio by the present government), is at best irresponsible and at worst enabling of such lunatics.

Then he has the nerve to ask Christians to “relax”, while denying communal motivation in any of the church attacks. His only reference for the denial being Rupa Subramanya (yes, the same person who shrugged off untouchability as a matter of hygiene), whose “admirable investigative report” is nothing but an anthology of police statements which she gulped down as facts without any questions asked.

Then he ends it all with such nuggets as Hinduism is “inclusive, not exclusive” and “… why did (Ambedkar) not pick Islam or Christianity? He instead picked Buddhism because Buddhism is not into conversion in the way in which these two religions are.”

Jagdish Bhagwati is what you get when you combine Hindu pride with neo-liberalism, and articulate it in academic mediocrity and dishonesty. It’s pathetic!

It’s Time to Become an Anti-National

One of the goals of the Hindutva project is to make “India” synonymous with “Hindu”. So a true Indian is a Hindu whereas one who is not a Hindu or doesn’t acknowledge the Hinduness of India is an anti-national. Over the recent years, this Hindutva project seems to be gaining some perceptible ground.

A while back Subramanian Swamy wanted Indians to either acknowledge their Hindu antecedents or give up their voting privileges. This feat of bigotry cost Swamy his Harvard position. but his views won him millions of fans in India. By any standard, he is a very popular politician in India and that is not because of the various lawsuits he filed, but mainly because of his new found Hindutva piety.

Then there is the intolerance of any contrary views when it comes to issues like Kashmir. So people like Arundhati Roy and Prashant Bhushan became seditionists and anti-nationals. The question here isn’t whether they are justified in their views or not, but whether they have the right to express those views in the first place. But the increasing jingoistic cacophony doesn’t make any allowance for such questions. It only has patience for one mindless chant – “India First”; where what counts as “First” is an euphemism for putting Hinduness before the constitutional idea of India.

In the recent weeks there was the rhetoric surrounding academic research on Hinduism. Apparently, not joining the Hindutva orchestra in demonizing the likes of Doniger is grounds for suspecting that one is anti-national.

And this week, some Kashmiri students were booked for sedition because they supported Pakistan in a India vs Pakistan cricket match. It may well be that the students are enamoured of the Islamic state of Pakistan and so support it, but that is no grounds for sedition.

So where does that leave freethinkers like me?

I liked Doniger’s “The Hindus” in that I got to hear Hindu voices that lie outside the framework of Vedic Hinduism. I think people like Arundhati Roy have the right to express their views without the threats of sedition charges. I have no love for the Islamic path that Pakistan has taken, but someone supporting a cricket team should never be treated as a thought crime that would eventually lead to they becoming traitors.

Given those views of mine, the “India First” brigade may well decree that I am an anti-national. In that case I gladly accept that label. I would not have settled for anything less, as for me people and their rights come first.

Riffing of an old Hindutva slogan, Garv se kaho hum anti-national hain (Translation: Proclaim with pride that we are anti-nationals).

The Peculiar State-sponsored Legend of the Tanot Mata Temple

In late March this year, my friend and I travelled to Rajasthan, a western Indian state. Our destination was the India-Pakistan border near Jaisalmer, a small town at the edges of the Thar Desert. Somewhere less than a hundered kilometers from the border, we stopped at a temple. Although I’m not religious, I’m not averse to visiting temples for I believe there is much to be learned about history, art and human behaviour at religious places. This trip was also unavoidable since our car driver insisted that we visit, for it had an interesting story to be told. But first, a little history.

India and Pakistan have been regional rivals since their birth. Both nations have fought three major wars and have had several smaller standoffs and armed conflicts. The war between the two nations in 1971 was the largest in terms of scale and impact. One battle, a part of this war, took place in Longewala. During this battle, the areas around this temple were bombed by Pakistan, for Indian armed forces had been stationed in this general area.

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