Acharya Balkrishna, the head of yoga expert Baba Ramdev-run FMCG company Patanjali made it to the Hurun India rich list 2017. He found a place in the list along with Radhakishan Damani of D-Mart and Mukesh Ambani.
In a country crazed by religion, superstition and miracles, the toughest profession to take up is that of a rationalist. Be it the miracles proclaimed by the Church or Sathya Sai Baba and even the remedies offered by Baba Ramdev, despite many of this being proven wrong people continue to flock these people and places.
Very recently a huge controversy had erupted over the claim that the water flowing from the statue at the Velankanni Church was a leak in the sewage system and not a miracle as claimed by the Church. The claim was made by Sanal Edamaraku, the president of the Indian Rationalist Association. What followed was a series of threats from the Church and also a case under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code– outraging religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
Edamuruku an author of 25 books who has spoken out against miracles and God men in the country takes us through about what it is to be a rationalist in a country like India. In this interview with rediff.com, Edamuruku says that he has sought to exercise his constitutional right to develop scientific thinking while lashing out at the churches, Sathya Sai Baba and also Baba Ramdev for the miracles and so called magic theories that they promote.
How does it feel to be a rationalist in India- a country that thrives on magic, miracles and beliefs?
It is a question of choice and the more difficult the choice is the more important it is. It is a difficult task no doubt when one is doing this in a country where superstition is rampant.
Which religion according to you has the highest element of superstitions?
I would say every religion has this. However there are a many who have a modern thought and there are many who are fanatics.
Now coming to latest controversy on the Church of Velankanni. You claimed that there was no miracle, but it was sewage water. How has the reaction been?
They were shocked and outraged. They were trying to make a miracle out of that thing. The priest himself was leading the prayers and trying to show that it was a miracle. In a bucket they were collecting water and giving it to the people who had gathered over there. I had asked for a sample of the water, but they refused to give it to me. I found that there were hardly one or two drops which had come from the statue and the Church had mixed it with extra water and were distributing it to the people. Later I went ahead and touched the nail on the crucifix and found that there were drops of water on it. On further examination, I found that there was a pipe of the sewer system behind the statue which was giving out the drops of water. The Church obviously did not like my findings and what followed was outrage.
People have a belief and they have a right to follow whatever religion they want. Is it right on your path to come in the way of that?
I am not abusing any religion. I just feel that no one has the right to dupe people with miracles. I do believe in the right to belief.
You have written and spoken about Sathya Sai Baba as well.
Yes I have. Sathya Sai Baba had been using miracles to dupe people. He gave the impression that he was God as a result of which he roped in the big wigs to his ashram who liberally donated a lot of money. I have been speaking and also demonstrating on how he did magic to rope in the disciples and trust me it is very easy to do that magic.
However the other aspect to Sathya Sai Baba is his philanthropy.
Yes that is there. However out of the big donations which came in there was just 4 per cent which was used for philanthropy while the rest of the money was all spent on extravagance which is not needed for a human being.
So why do you think miracles are being promoted?
In the churches miracles are promoted so that it becomes a pilgrimage centre. There is a lot of money in such things. Once it becomes a pilgrimage centre then it automatically brings in the people who pump in a lot of money. This is why Churches artificially create miracles. What can one say about Churches creating miracles when the Vatican itself has a policy of creating miracles? We have around 10000 saints and to each one a miracle has been attributed. Take the case of Sister Alphonso to whom a miracle was attributed in which it was said a man started to walk. It has today become a pilgrimage place. They are trying the same thing at Velankanni. There was also a failed attempt made at the Mahim church where they tried to say that blood was oozing out Mother Mary’s picture.
What about Baba Ramdev?
Baba Ramdev does not speak about miracles, but about magical remedies. He has basically been trying to say that Yoga has a capacity which can work a magic. He says that he has the results but his claims are not substantiated. I feel sad when I see people in parks rubbing their fingers to prevent themselves from growing old faster. Ramdev had said that if we have tulsi leaves we can be protected from the H1N1 virus and also claimed that with yoga one can protect one self from HIV. Now these are baseless and more importantly very irresponsible statements.
Despite all this these people continue to have a very big following. Are people basically stupid?
Yes they do have a following. However take the population of the country as a whole and compare the following these people have. The number of followers is not all that great. Yes in the case of Sai Baba there was a very big following. That is because it was systematically done. They had identified loop holes in religions and catered to that. For instance not every one can enter into a Mosque or some other place of worship. That was never the case in a Sai Baba ashram. In a country where we have scientific temperament coming up in a big we cannot get drawn into all these miracles.
How has the response to your campaign against miracles been?
I have had a very good response. There are people who are interested in what I am trying to say. Many agree with me but have been either too oppressed or scared to speak.
Are there are constant threats to your life?
When I embarked on this mission, I was aware of the threats that would follow especially in the case of the Church which has been intolerant always right from the time of Galelio. Yesterday one Catholic organisation had even said that I need to put into the mental asylum and not sent to jail as I am talking rubbish. However I will continue with my work as I do not care about the consequences.
First Anna Hazare and the Baba Ramdev. A fast appears to be an effective way of getting the government to do things.The Events surrounding the Baba Ramdev fast involved a lot of contreversy and one cannot forget the crackdown of his supporters by the Union Government.
Shri Shri Ravishankar has been vocal about these movements and he even managed to convince Baba Ramdev to call off his fast. The Art of Living founder says in this interview that he does support the cause but would never support anybody who resorts to violence. Shri Shri Ravishankar also says that he is unaware whether the RSS is behind the Baba Ramdev movement.
Baba Ramdev had spoken of starting an army of his own. Do you subscribe to that view.
Absolutely not. I will not support anybody taking any form of violence or law into their own hands
There is talk of the RSS being behind the Ramdev movement. Your views on this.
I do not know. I have never gone to their fast or their program. I am not in touch with them on that issue so I cannot comment.
Could you suggest methods through which citizens can raise their voice in protest or is hunger strike the only way.
There are many ways to protest. People can protest and hold dharnas. Hunger strike is one aspect that will work when people at the helm of affairs are sensitive. Ballot is another way to protest. I feel that all protests should be non-violent and non-instigative. They should be done without hatred or vengeance.
Do you think the country is going through a change and people becoming more impatient?
Change is the constant thing that keeps happening. You cannot categorize a country of 1.2 billion with one sort of emotion. There are people of various emotions, attitudes and tendencies.
Do you think that both Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev have political ambitions?
I am not here to comment on their ambitions. You have to ask them about that. As far as I am concerned, everyone should join hands together and see that the country is out of this rut it is facing.
What plans does art of living have in future to fight issues such as these?
The Art of Living supported Anna Hazare from day one and it will continue to support any movement which is progressive and non-violent. Art of Living will support any organisation which fights for a just cause. We are engaged in educating and reforming the people.
Art of Living works at three levels:
Creating awareness among the civil society in satsangs where millions of people attend, we take a vow not to support or indulge in corruption.
Our youth volunteers approach the government officials and put a sticker on their tables saying’ I will not take bribe’. This is on the bureaucratic level.
Through its programs, The Art of Living creates a sense of belongingness and basically works on changing mindsets of people, reforming them in the prisons, at workplace, schools and colleges. It is stress, narrow mindedness and lack of vision about life that makes one go into criminal activity. The Art of Living is engaged in creating a sense of security and transforming the way people look at life.
In all these ways, we contribute for bringing the much needed change in society. At the same time, we are also actively engaged in educating people against corruption and its prevention. The Art of Living also does not hesitate to join other movements who stand up against or fight corruption. We believe more in reform and education rather than in fighting.
Do you think that all our leaders should undergo a course at the art of living. Will such an exercise change their perspective towards our country?
Certainly! It has benefited millions to change their mindsets and their lifestyles. Definitely, our politicians and bureaucrats also need this.
What is the spiritual road our netas should take in order to be better leaders and also non corrupt?
They should do satsangs like Mahatma Gandhi did every day.
They should feel themselves as servants of people rather than as somebody big trying to rule and control the people.
Lead a simple lifestyle with one vision of giving a better future and a better nation to the coming generations.
The government has denied Anna Hazare the permission to go on a fast. This can be well debated whether the government was right in doing so or not.
Firstly, the right to fast comes under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution which deals with right to expression. The government’s decision to crack down on persons going on fasts can be debated on various counts.
According to legal experts, the decision of the government to deny Anna Hazare the permission to go on fast can be challenged before the Supreme Court of India which has a plethora of judgments on this subject. The Supreme Court has time and again defined the right to speech and expression as imbibed under the Indian Constitution.
Legal experts say that India had attained independence through peaceful protest and going by the protests being carried out by both Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare there is no doubt that they are following in the foot steps of what all our freedom fighters did.
There is no ruling of any court which bans fasting. It is each ones individual right to go on fast since it is a manner in which one can protest against the government and there is no bar on that. The freedom of expression and speech under which the right to fast comes under is incorporated under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. This right cannot be denied unless and until there is an illegality. However legal experts say that the manner in which the government has denied Anna the right to fast can well be an illegality. This right cannot be denied outright, experts also point out.
The government has been giving many excuses and this cannot be accepted and hence can well be challenged before the Courts. On one hand the government says that they apprehend a law and order problem if this fast is allowed. However look at what happened with Baba Ramdev. He was on a fast for a couple of days and there was no violence. The issue only began when there was a crack down and hence we all know who started the problem. By curbing people the right to go on fast, the government is acting in a manner opposed to the Constitution of India.
While dealing with such matters, the government needs to take into account certain things. They will need to keep an eye on the manner in which the protest is being carried out. They cannot deny permission outright. They can act only if they feel that the protest is turning violent. However what the government will need to see here is that in the past protests by the same persons has not turned violent and hence there is no justification in denying permission. The other thing the government could do is to fix responsibility on the person leading the protest. This would ensure that the security is the responsibility of the person undertaking the fast.
Now coming back to the issue of right to fast, the government will be in a position only if the person claims that he would fast unto death. There is no law which allows this and if a person says he will fast unto death then it would fall under the ambit of attempting to committing suicide as mandated under the Indian Penal Code. If there is such a declaration then the government is well within its right to stop the person/deny permission or forcibly evict him out of the place.
Justice Santosh Hegde, member of the Lok Pal drafting committee says that the government has not acted correctly here. The refusal of permission in the initial stage is bad in law. The government is within its rights to take action only if the assembly turns violent. However there is one bit of advise I would like to give Baba Ramdev now and that is not to go ahead with his protest in public glare. I am saying this only because this government is capable of introducing some bad elements in the assembly who in turn will kick up a racket and at the end of it Baba Ramdev will have to take the blame.
On whether the Lok Pal drafting committee would continue to boycott the meetings in the event of the Baba Ramdev fiasco, Justice Hegde says that there is no such plan. We will continue with the meetings and as per my information the meetings will go on as per schedule.
Was he some terrorist that he had to be picked up amidst such high drama and urgency, Justice Santhosh Hegde, member of the Lokpal Bill bill drafting committee had to say about the Baba Ramdev incident.
It has brought back memories of the horrific emergency which imposed in the month of June 1976.
Not only is this a clear case of violation of fundamental rights but it appears to be exactly like the situation that prevailed during the emergency. What was the hurry and was this some emergency situations where terrorists were slipping out. The government has a lot to answer on this, Justice Hegde who is also a former Judge of the Supreme Court had to say when asked about the current situation.
memories” of the June 1976 internal emergency.
Was this necessary to treat the protestors this way? They were protesting peacefully. They were beaten up and the brutality which I witnessed has pained me no end.
I don’t think anyone has the right to disturb a peaceful agitation.
It is the fundamental right of every citizen to gather peacefully to demonstrate and till yesterday nothing untoward had happened which gave room for any suspicion that there may be a law and order problem. This looks like a case where the government wants to curb the voice of the people.
This is a violation of the fundamental rights of citizens and also a violation of the human rights of the people who were present there.
When a democratically elected government resorts to such action then the situation is very bleak. What was the emergency in acting like this? Just because negotiations fail you don’t resort to force. want an answer from the government as to what ignited the situation and shall not rest until answers are given. I feel for those various people who came all the wasy from different parts to support the movement.
I don’t understand the need to act in such haste. He had permission to use the Ramlila ground and the government was aware what was going on there. The use of force is to be condemned since the demonstration was vocal and never physical.
Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.