TAG | India
Cross-Posted on the Corner:
There are blasphemy laws in India too, and in this instance a case there comes with a possibly somewhat unexpected twist.
The Guardian reports:
When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage. So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland….
… “The Catholic archbishop of Bombay, Oswald, Cardinal Gracias, has said that if I apologise for the ‘offence’ I have caused he will see to it that the charges are dropped. This shows that he has influence in the situation but he will not use it unless I apologise, which I will not do as I have done nothing wrong,” [Edamaruku] said….
Edamaruku makes a fair point. The cardinal should also ponder the tacit encouragement he is currently giving those elsewhere—far harsher than he appears to be— who use blasphemy laws as a weapon against free speech in general, and, I might add, Christians in particular.
To quote (yet again) what was written in Jyllands-Posten at the time of the Mohammed cartoon controversy: “free speech is free speech is free speech. No buts.”
That’s a pretty good principle.
I am shocked, shocked that this has happened:
Thousands of followers around the world believed the Indian guru Sai Baba was a god, but since his death it has emerged that the fortunes people donated to him were not all invested in good works.
The Indian guru Sai Baba’s life seemed to have it all: sex, money and religion.
A lifetime of claiming to be the incarnation of God had brought him a £5.5 billion fortune and a worldwide following of 50 million people. It also brought accusations that he molested his young acolytes and used cheap trickery to perform his miracles.
Yet all this is now in danger of being eclipsed by the extraordinary saga which has been playing out since his death in April, a story of hidden treasure troves, of mountains of gold and diamonds, of missing millions, all set against a backdrop of a struggle for control of his empire.
In his prime, the diminutive holy man with the bright orange robes and huge afro haircut could count kings and presidents among his friends, and the likes of Sarah Ferguson among the admirers of his home-spun, “love all, serve all” philosophy.
The film actress Goldie Hawn has visited his religious centre or ashram at least three times and donated tens of thousands of dollars to his projects; the Duchess of York paid a call after her marriage broke up; while the cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who gave £40,000 for a statue of the guru, and a myriad of Indian politicians and Bollywood stars claimed inspiration from his message of putting service above self.
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama said today that China should learn religious harmony and non-violence from India. Describing himself “as the Son of India,” Dalai Lama, who was in Amritsar for a night halt on his way to Dharmshala, said that India was known all over the world for religious harmony.
What on earth is he talking about?
Is he talking about the Gujarat riots of 2002, where Hindus enraged over what turned out to be an accidental train fire killed an estimated 2,000 Muslims and drove another 100,000+ from their homes, with the connivance of the local government? Only 11 people have been punished for this so far – they must have been awfully industrious. That’s fewer than the 14 people handed life sentences for the slaughter of another thousand Muslims at Bhagalpur in 1989, but that process took 17 years to complete.
Is he talking about the mass violence directed against Christians in Orissa at Christmas in 2007? The burning alive of a nun inside a Catholic orphanage the following year? The burning to death of an Adventist pastor and his mother inside his home, during a spree that saw 17 Orissa churches and over 500 other homes destroyed?
By religious harmony, does he mean the laws popping up in Indian states banning conversion from one religion to another, specifically targeted at Christian efforts to proselytize among Hindus? In Orissa, it now requires a permit from the police to convert from one religion to another.
Read the whole thing.
Sanal Edamaruku’s Bradlaugh moment: The London Times has the details:
When a famous tantric guru boasted on television that he could kill another man using only his mystical powers, most viewers either gasped in awe or merely nodded unquestioningly. Sanal Edamaruku’s response was different. “Go on then — kill me,” he said.
Mr Edamaruku had been invited to the same talk show as head of the Indian Rationalists’ Association — the country’s self-appointed sceptic-in-chief. At first the holy man, Pandit Surender Sharma, was reluctant, but eventually he agreed to perform a series of rituals designed to kill Mr Edamaruku live on television. Millions tuned in as the channel cancelled scheduled programming to continue broadcasting the showdown, which can still be viewed on YouTube.
First, the master chanted mantras, then he sprinkled water on his intended victim. He brandished a knife, ruffled the sceptic’s hair and pressed his temples. But after several hours of similar antics, Mr Edamaruku was still very much alive — smiling for the cameras and taunting the furious holy man.
Do read the whole thing. It’s fascinating.