An atheist conference scheduled for April 10 was postponed to a later date. Nitin Hande, one of the event organizers, said the police told them to reschedule their conference because certain Hindutva groups expressed opposition to their event.
The conference, called the “7th Nastik Melava 2022,” was organized by the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Vicharmanch. It was scheduled on Sunday in the SM Joshi Foundation Hall in the city of Pune in the Maharashtra province.
According to Hande, the police told them that “organizing such an event on the day of Ram Navami festival may cause law and order problems.”
Hande said they informed the Vishrambag police station, which has jurisdiction over the venue, about their conference on April 8. “But then the cops started calling,” Hande said. “Police told us that April 10 is Ram Navami, and holding the atheist conference on the same day might cause law and order problems,” he explained.
Ramakant Mane, Assistant Commissioner of Police, said they asked the organizers to postpone their event because they were occupied with the Shree Rama Navami festival.
However, Hande said the police believe that “some organizations have claimed that the atheist conference is planned on Ram Navami for hurting the sentiments of the believers.”
Hande and his team sent a letter to the police on Saturday asking them to reconsider their decision. Hande said they requested the police to assist with the conference, explaining that it was a “non-political program, which does not aim to hurt anybody.”
“It is meant for those who believe in scientific approach, humanity, modernity, atheism, and principles of our Constitution,” he added.
Mane responded to the letter but did not specify any threat to the atheist conference. “We have not received any complaint from any outfit for opposing the atheist conference,” he said.
Instead, they asked the conference organizers to move the event to April 24.
The cops also demanded that the conference organizers send a list of the topics during the conference. Hande and his team wondered why police were asking for a list now and not in previous conferences.
“Six such atheist conferences have taken place in the past. No law and order problem ever happened earlier,” Hande said.