The Hindutva brigade in India has used violence and intimidation to cancel a Nastik Sammelan (get together of Atheists) in Mathura, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Not surprisingly, they got support from their supposed to be enemies, the Islamic clerics. This happened to a meeting called by Swami Balendu at his ashram. Balendu was a Hindu spiritual guru, but has turned into an atheist few years ago.
“Over 50 activists of the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and local Hindutva groups reached the Bindu Seva Sansathan Ashram at about 10 in the morning and started shouting slogans and attacking the ashram property. Armed with sticks, the Hindutva activists broke the glass panels of the ashram,” Swami Balendu told The Hindu on phone from Mathura.
“Immediately after the attack, the Hindutva activists, accompanied by senior police officials, told us that the protest was a mere start and if we went ahead with the meeting then much bigger things could happen in the city,” he said.
“Even though it was a private event we had taken official permission. The Constitution permits us to be non-believers. But this seems like an all-out attack on the freedom of expression and the freedom to be a non-believer,” added Swami Balendu.
Police officials reportedly told Swami Balendu they could not guarantee security to him and his guests because of the ‘tension’ in the city due to the proposed private meet.
Under pressure from Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Prishad and other Hindutva groups, the Mathura administration which had earlier given permission for the private meeting, also withdrew it.
Several participants of the meet told The Hindu that they were threatened by by the Hindutva activists not to write anything on social media platforms. All of the participants The Hindu talked to on phone wondered how could a private meeting of like minded people in a private property could create law and order problem.
“The administration has been trying to harass us and shut the Ashram some how. They sent a food inspector to the restaurant so that they could seize the place. We did not want to disturb any body. Neither was our intention to create a law and order problem. But what I fail to understand is that how and why few guests of mine, visiting my home, could create a law and order problem,” said Swami Balendu, who was born and brought up in Mathura, and comes from a “family of Hindu spiritualists”.
Swami Balendu had conducted a Press meet on Thursday to announce his Atheist Conclave.
He had also briefed mediapersons about the event on Thursday, where he allegedly said that religion has become a “business” that thrives on fear in the minds of people. While dubbing religion as “poison”, he also reportedly compared gods with comic characters. “Swami Balendu claimed that all religious scriptures are fictitious and meant only for entertainment.
His statement is against Hinduism and such leaders should be banned,” said Swami Phool Dol Das Maharaj, a sant from Vrindavan, who was among the protesters.
It is interesting to note that some Muslim clerics accompanied the Hindutva hooligans when they came to disrupt the meeting.
Mohammad Umar Quadri, Imam of Shahi Jama Masjid of Mathura, said Balendu is a “publicity seeker” and has no right to hurt the feelings of believers. A few clerics from Jama Masjid too accompanied the protesters.
All theists are united in hiding behind “hurt religious sentiments” bogey when faced with rational criticism.
What is to be remembered here is BJP is not even the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh. Even without state power the hooligans were able to close down the meeting.
Atheists in India are strongly protesting the attack. The President of The Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Narendra Nayak came out with this statement.
The Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations strongly condemns the attack on the Atheist meet at Brindavan in Uttar Pradesh. This meeting was held at a private place and the participants were all adults who wanted to discuss their ideology and have social interations.
The disruption of this meeting by a group of Hindutwavadis is a deplorable act by desperate people who are scared by the onslaught of reason over their superstitious exploitative practices.The meeting was at a private premises, the required permissions had been taken and it is the constitutional right of every citizen to follow what they want.
We do hope that the UP govt takes strong action on the illegal action of these hooligans.
Intolerance to criticism of religion is growing in India. But it is heartening to note that the number of people declaring themselves publicly as atheists are also increasing. Confrontations like this between reason and irrational beliefs are bound to be more frequent in coming days.