Atheist Society of India Leader Arrested for Blasphemy Against Hindu Gods

The chief of the Atheist Society of India was detained after making blasphemous comments about Hindu deities in Kondangal.

On December 31st, Dalit activist and Telangana president of Bharata Nasthika Samajam (Atheist Society of India) Bhairi Naresh was detained for making sacrilegious comments on Swamy Ayyappa and other Hindu gods.

According to N Koti Reddy, the superintendent of Vikarabad police, Naresh was arrested at Kamalapur in the Hanamkonda district. The police tracked Naresh using his mobile phone. Reddy also said that Dolu Hanumanthu, another activist and the organizer of the program where Naresh made disrespectful comments on Hindu deities, was also detained.

Both accused were brought to a local court of Vikarabad and remanded to judicial custody in Parigi sub-jail for 14 days. Police are considering booking them under the Preventive Detention (PD) Act, Reddy added.

Naresh is booked under several sections of the Indian Penal Code. Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion), Section 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), Section 298 (uttering, words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person) and Section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).

In the Atheist Society of India meeting at Kodangal, the Dalit activist made blasphemous comments on the birth of Lord Ayyappa and mocked Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.

After a video of Naresh's speech went viral on social media platforms, religious groups, especially followers of Lord Ayyappa, demanded action against Naresh and staged state-wide protests. Chaos ensued at Kosigi town, where one of Naresh's followers, Shankar, was assaulted by a large mob of devotees of Lord Ayyappa staging a demonstration. The police, after learning this, quickly took action and whisked him away from the spot.

Followers of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA T Raja Singh staged a demonstration in Mangalhat. They urged the authorities to take strict action against Naresh. Two years ago, stand-up comedian Munawar Farooqui was booked under the PD act for hurting the religious statements of the Hindu community. Singh asked why the police hesitated to do the same with Naresh, who insulted Hindu deities in a video message.

Other Hindu religious groups also staged similar protests in different places across the state.

Bandi Sanjay, the state president of BJP, condemned the derogatory comments made by Naresh and said, "These non-believers are making blasphemous comments against the Hindu gods only with the support of the Telangana government."

Many cases were booked against Naresh by various religious groups in different places of Telangana, which includes Kodangal, Hyderabad, and Warangal, all claiming that he hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindu community, The Vikarabad SP said. The SP requested the populace of Telangana to remain calm and let the law take legal action. He also noted that organizers of such meetings should not entertain such controversial individuals.

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