FIR against rationalist for questioning ‘miracle’

Man files complaint against Sanal Edamaruku who dismissed water dripping from Jesus statue as due to capillary action, saying he had made statements against the Church

Jyoti Punwani

Mumbai was the birthplace of the Indian   Rationalist Association (IRA), founded in 1930 by Mumbaikar R P Paranjpe.   Almost a century later, it has also become the first city to have an FIR filed against the President of the IRA.

The FIR has been filed by another Mumbaikar, Agnelo Fernandes, President of the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum.

CR 61/2012, Juhu Police Station, has been filed against miracle-buster Sanal Edamaruku, who is also founder-president of the Rationalist International,   which has scientists such as Richard Dawkins in it.

The FIR has been filed under IPC Sec 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs. The offence is cognizable and non-bailable.

The whole story began on March 5, when during a TV programme in Delhi, Sanal  dismissed reports that the “dripping cross” outside Vile Parle’s Velankanni   church was a miracle. TV-9 asked him to investigate and flew him down on   March 10. Sanal visited the spot and took pictures.

Born to rationalist parents, Sanal has, for the last 30 years, travelled across the country demonstrating the science behind supposed miracles. He has exposed the man-made nature of the ‘divine flame’ at Sabarimala, and successfully challenged Hindu godmen on TV.

Later on March 10, Sanal attributed the water dripping from the Jesus statue   to capillary action of underground water near the cross. His photographs,   displayed on TV-9, showed seepage on the wall behind the cross and on the   ground near its base. “I removed one of the stones covering a canal for dirty   water nearby, and found that water had been blocked there. Once water is   blocked, it will find an outlet, if not downwards, then upwards. Every student knows that trees get water through capillary action.’’

Sanal said that when he reached the spot, a priest was leading a prayer on the road near the cross; water from the cross had been collected in a bucket   and was being distributed to those gathered there. He was given a photograph of the statue dripping water with the word ‘miracle’ written on it. He said   he was not allowed to take a sample of the water for chemical analysis.

During the subsequent TV discussions in Delhi and Mumbai, Sanal accused the Catholic Church of “miracle mongering’’. Interestingly, in Mumbai, Archbishop Agnelo Gracias, who joined the discussion, categorically stated that the   Church had not described the event as a miracle and would do so only after   conducting investigations. The Archbishop also claimed that the Church was not anti-science and, in fact, it had established the Pontifical Academy of   Sciences, of which Galileo had been a member.

At that point, Sanal pointed out that the Church had imprisoned Galileo, and burnt scientist Giordano Bruno at the stake, and Pope John Paul II had even apologised for it. He also asked the Archbishop what he had to say about the   Vatican indulging in exorcism, to which the Archbishop replied that though he   had not come across any case of “possession’’, he could not rule it out.

All through the discussion, the other panelists kept warning Sanal that they would file FIRs against him if he didn’t apologise for his allegations against the Church.

The discussion ended with Sanal declaring that the Church’s intolerance had resulted in the Dark Ages in Europe. “Don’t try to bring the Dark Ages to India,” he said.

Fernandes lodged a complaint against Sanal at Juhu Police Station on April 10. Another complaint was lodged at the MIDC Police Station. In his complaint, Fernandes states that statements made against the Church and the   Pope by Sanal had hurt his religious feelings.

Sanal, who lives in Delhi, said, “The Indian Constitution enjoins me to develop scientific temper. Let them arrest me, I’m not going to stop doing my fundamental duty.’’

A Sanal Edamuruku Defence Committee has been convened by lawyer N D Pancholi.   Meanwhile, Mumbai police have called him here for questioning.

Support the Sanal Edamaruku Defence Fund with your donation.

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