President of the Indian Rationalist Association, Sanal Edamaruku charged with blasphemy.

The President of the Indian Rationalist Association, Sanal Edamaruku, has spent the past three decades promoting reason and free thought in his homeland, rising to prominence as a high-profile debunker of the claims of India’s numerous gurus and mystics. His organisation is perhaps best known for what it calls Rationalist Reality Theatre – travelling road shows in which a rationalist, posing as a guru, arrives in a village and begins showing the residents his “miracles”, before eventually casting aside the costume and demonstrating how it can all be explained by science. In 2008, Sanal achieved global recognition when a tantric guru, Pandit Surinder Sharma, attempted to kill him using only his magic powers live on national TV. The footage, which shows Sanal laughing as the guru fails to slay him with his death mantras, became a Youtube hit.

When Sanal was contacted by Mumbai’s TV9 channel and asked to investigate the dripping crucifix, he was happy to oblige. For someone with his experience, it must have sounded like a routine request – show up, take a look, explain the science and provide a view to counter the talk of holy water and miracles. He certainly didn’t know that his trip to the Our Lady of Velankanni Church would change his life, leaving him facing three years in prison under India’s archaic blasphemy laws and forcing him to leave the country in order to avoid arrest and imprisonment ahead of a possible trial.

Paul Sims - Taking on the miracle mongers

Petition at end of article.

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Replies to This Discussion

Hmph ... I don't suppose India has any anti-entrapment statutes on the books, because that last incident sure smells like entrapment.

What happened to India? I used to think them to be a more peaceable people, or at least a bit more tolerant, oh wait that's right, Christianity and Islam happened. Disgusting. As to entrapment that seems to be the modus operandi of the Catholic church down through history doesn't it?

As an aside; Does anyone know, do those petitions from actually count for anything, or are they just culling our names/identities for some marketing aim? Or possibly they act as a placebo to make us 'feel' like we've done something? Is there any data on the actual impact of these type petitions somewhere? 

This is the first I've heard about the possible entrapment side to this story. I should not be surprised though.

The petition will be less than productive - they're petitioning the guy most likely responsible for the set-up in the first place.

This situation, just like so many blasphemy cases, belongs in front of international political and business leaders. Foreign aid and foreign trade being threatened are the only forces that will get the attention of India's leaders.

The petitions do a lot of good. They catch the attention of the news media. For example, one such petition provided by got its filer on the Today Show. She submitted a petition for Target to not start Black Friday on Thanksgiving evening. I tried to sign the petition associated with the article but, unlike petitions, it required the signer's street address. I was concerned about what that might lead to so I declined on reconsideration. I certainly support the cause.

Well that's good to hear, I do worry how our information is being used so I don't often sign those that ask for private info either John, but I am a member of Credo and one of their customers, so my money and my votes generally go to causes they support, they make it easy, I just pay my bill and sign as their customer on petitions they email us, no biggie. Like you however I do tend to shy away from some of the petitions that ask too much in the way of personal information from me, I don't know why, it's not like our social networking sites aren't already culling us in some form or another with or without our permission, but I just can't bring myself to sign some of them. 

The problem with the petition in question is that some theist are so fanatical that if you provide your street address you might wind up on an assassination list. Below is a petition I signed today against the sale of T-shirts with words and pictures demeaning to women on them. doesn't require that a street address be provided (that info is optional). You might be interested in it:

You know John the thought of fanatics culling my address hadn't even occurred to me, I was more worried about 'tracking' if you catch my drift, thanks for bringing that point up! 

Thanks for the link, I'll check that out.

Blasphemy statutes are a human rights violation.  Just another aggressive power play to impose religion on others.  To me it's more proof that people don't believe in their religions.  If they did, they'd know that their gods can take care of themselves, without the need for police enforcement.

Exactly SB, that's always the stance I take with a believer trying to force their opinion on me too, if your god is 'omnipotent' why would it care whether or not I believed in it? But there we go being all rational and such! 

Interesting story - I wonder how things will change in India after this event?  India has a huge population and so I think things change very slowly.

Hopefully, India will at least get rid of the blasphemy laws that have sent Edamaruku into exile. They are inconsistent with freedom of speech.




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