India Becomes Hostile Environment for Nonreligious


Atheist activist H Farook was killed in the South Indian city of Coimbatore last month. He ran an atheism WhatsApp group with 400 members. A banned radical group may be behind the killing, according to police. M.M. Kalburgi, a writer who criticized idol worship, was killed in 2015. In 2013, the anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, who opposed exploitative ritual and promoted rational humanism, was murdered. Last year in northern India, a daylong meeting at the ashram of atheist leader Swami Balendu was called off after some Hindu and Muslim groups protested.

DV Ramakrishna Rao, who identifies as nonreligious, filed a public interest lawsuit in the high court of Hyderabad seeking the option of identifying as nonreligious on government and other official forms. He found out that his daughter’s school examination form had options for identifying with each of the six major Indian religions and an additional seventh option of “other,” but no separate category for nonbelievers.

Nearly 50 groups have been fighting against exploitative rituals, black magic and religious frauds in India. They are describing themselves variously as “rationalist, atheist, skeptic, secularist and science organizations” and they are part of the Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations (FIRA). FIRA is an association which is “committed to the development of scientific temper and humanism in India.”

One of them, Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (MANS), is a voluntary organization working through 310 branches located in rural and urban Maharashtra, Belgaum in Karnataka and Goa. They explain the eradication of blind faith through these four main Aims and Objectives:

1. To oppose and agitate against harmful superstitions and rituals which misguide and exploit.
2. To inculcate and propagate scientific outlook, scepticism, humanism and critical thinking.
3. To encourage constructive and critical analysis of religion, traditions and customs.
4. To associate and work with progressive social reform organizations.

Avinash Patil, state executive president of MANS, said “The environment for freethinking and questioning is decreasing. Parties calling themselves secular have hardly been secular and this is why the space for fundamentalists has strengthened.” “Getting threats is routine,” Avinash Patil added. “But we will not be frightened. We need to keep fighting.”

Photo Credits: BOOM - Fake News Police

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