Sanal Edamaruku, a prominent rationalist campaigner for scientific education in India, faces blasphemy charges and a possible prison sentence following unfounded complaints made against him by various Catholic organisations in March 2012.
The charges stem from Mr. Edamaruku's debunking of a supposed miracle at a Catholic Church in Mumbai - a statue thought to be 'leaking holy water' was revealed, by Mr. Edamruku, to be leaking water from a faulty drainage system.
Having been denied "anticipatory bail", he faces immediate imprisonment if he is arrested, and a possible three-year sentence if convicted. In the 12 months since the complaints were filed, the Catholic authorities in India have rejected all calls to use their influence to have the case dropped, and Mr. Edamaruku remains at serious risk of arrest and imprisonment.
We call upon the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra State, Mr. Prithviraj Chavan, to protect freedom of speech in India and do all they can to intercede to ensure these spurious charges against Mr. Edamaruku are dropped. It is vital that he is allowed to contuinue his important public work without further harassment and danger to his freedom and security.
Further details about Mr. Edamaruku's case can be found on the Rationalist Association's website.
We are deeply concerned about blasphemy charges pressed by Catholic organisations in Mumbai against Mr. Sanal Edamaruku, prominent rationalist and president of the Indian Rationalist Association, a national organisation founded in 1930 in Mumbai by R.P. Paranjpe. The Indian Rationalist Association is dedicated to developing the Scientific Temper, a Spirit of Inquiry and Reform, and Humanism, as enshrined in the Constitution of India as a Fundamental Duty.
In March 2012, Mr. Edamaruku incurred the anger of Catholic extremists when he exposed that water dripping from a statue of their deity was not a miracle, but was caused by faulty plumbing and capillary action. The charges against him are ironically based on Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, a draconian law from colonial times which criminalises “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings”. As a result, an arrest warrant was issued against him in June 2012. Currently on an extended lecture tour in Europe, Mr. Edamaruku fears for his freedom and safety were he to return home.
Mr. Edamaruku is also the president of Rationalist International, a worldwide forum for the promotion of science and rational thought that includes luminaries like Richard Dawkins, James Randi, Richard Leakey and Lewis Wolpert. His persecution is a serious setback for civil rights in India, and reflects badly on India's international reputation.
Mr Edamaruku has been invited to speak out on his case by Index on Censorship in London, and by other reputed organisations in European cities including London, Helsinki, Stockholm, Uppsala, Gothenburg, Copenhagen, Berlin, Madrid, Barcelona, Dublin, Cork, Galway, Belfast, Wroclaw, Katowice, Krakow, Szczecin, Poznan and Warsaw. In the coming months he will deliver lectures in several cities in the USA, Latin America and Australia.
It is a highly alarming development that India – in the 21st century! – seems to allow a handful of fanatics to put a highly esteemed, honest and courageous man at risk of imprisonment, simply because he dares to reject an absurd miracle claim in scientific terms.
Often referred to as the largest democracy in the world, India is meant to be a secular state. To guard and guarantee democracy and secularism, wise men created one of the most prudent and progressive constitutions of modern times. The Indian Constitution enshrines the Fundamental Duty to respect and develop Scientific Temper, Spirit of Inquiry and Reform, and Humanism. Should a man who has dedicated his life to making this Fundamental Duty a social reality be prosecuted in the name of ignorance and religious fanaticism?
We call upon you to defend Free Speech and to give a clear signal that Indian laws are not to be misused to suppress scientific knowledge and reasonable criticism of religion. We ask you to intercede to ensure all charges against Mr. Sanal Edamaruku are dropped so that he can continue his important public work without further harassment and danger to his freedom and security.