Sanal Edamaruku

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Sanal Edamaruku
Sanal Edamaruku in Helsinki.jpg
Born (1955-05-26) 26 May 1955 (age 59)
Thodupuzha, Kerala, India
Alma mater University of Kerala
Known for President of the Indian Rationalist Association and founder-President of Rationalist International
Religion None (Atheist)
Parents Joseph Edamaruku
Soley Edamaruku

Sanal Edamaruku is an Indian author and rationalist. He is the founder-president and editor of Rationalist International,[1] the president of the Indian Rationalist Association and the author of 25 books and other articles. In 2012, he was charged with blasphemy for his role in examining a claimed miracle at a local Catholic Church in Mumbai. He moved to Finland to evade his arrest.

Early life[edit]

Edamaruku was born in 1955 in Thodupuzha, Kerala, India to Joseph Edamaruku, an Indian scholar and author, and Soley Edamaruku.[2] Born in a Christian-Hindu mixed marriage, he was brought up without any kind of specific religious influence. At his parent's insistence he was the first student in India whose official school records listed "no religion".[3]

He became a rationalist-atheist activist at the age of 15, after seeing a neighbourhood athlete's death after her family refused medical treatment because they believed in faith healing.[4] In 1977, he obtained a Master's Degree in Political Science from the University of Kerala. In 1980, he got MPhil degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi at the School of International Studies. While writing his thesis towards his doctorate, he began working for the Afro-Asian Rural Reconstruction Organization. He gave up his job in 1982 to focus more on the Indian Rationalist Association and publishing his own works. He also has a diploma in Journalism.

Rationalist activism[edit]

Edamaruku demonstrating a levitation trick.
Edamaruku demonstrating the trick to "create" holy ash in a village in Uttar Pradesh state in India.

Edamaruku has been active in the Indian Rationalist Association (IRA) from the age of 15. Before becoming the president in 2005 he served as the General Secretary since 1983,[5] and has been the editor of its mouthpiece Modern Freethinker. His many books and articles deal mainly with rationalistic thoughts and against superstition in India. His writings in Rationalist International are translated into English, French, German, Spanish and Finnish.[6]

In February 2011 Edamaruku was elected as a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry[7] (USA) and is an Honorary Associate of New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists and Rationalist Association of UK (formerly Rationalist Press Association.)[8] whose past Honorary Associates include Bertrand Russell, H G Wells, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Francis Crick.

He has carried out investigations and demonstrations which helped expose frauds, mystics and god men as well as conducting campaigns against superstition in Indian villages.[2] He refers to this as "Rationalist Reality Theatre"[2] These investigations have attracted the attention of print and television media throughout Asia. The documentary film Guru Busters[9] features Edamaruku and a team of rationalist campaigners on the road in Kerala giving public demonstrations of how to perform supposedly supernatural stunts. He has helped to build the Indian Atheist Publishers, which is now Asia's largest free thought publishing house. He convened the three International Rationalist Conferences held in 1995, 2000, and 2002.[6]

In December 2013, Edamaruku announced the launch of a new quarterly English language magazine The Rationalist on his blog.[10] Contributors will include international rationalists on several continents and content will focus on science, reason, critical thinking and human rights.

The Great Tantra Challenge[edit]

On 3 March 2008, while appearing on a panel TV show, Edamaruku challenged a tantrik to demonstrate his powers by killing him using only magic.[2] The live show on India TV where the tantrik chanted mantras and performed a ceremony received a large boost in ratings. After his attempts failed the tantrik reported that Edamaruku must be under the protection of a powerful god, to which Edamaruku responded that he is an atheist.[11][12]

2012 Blasphemy Case[edit]

In March 2012 Edamaruku investigated a report that a crucifix at Our Lady of Velankanni church in Mumbai was dripping water from the feet.[2] His research indicated that the dripping was caused by capillary action from a clogged drain.

In April 2012 the Catholic Church in Mumbai filed a complaint under section 295A of the Indian Penal Code in several police stations around the city.[2][13] Enacted in 1927, section 295A says:

Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of [citizens of India], [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to [three years], or with fine, or with both.[14]

The Archbishop of Mumbai has asked Edamaruku to apologize in exchange for dropping the charges but the All India Catholic Union says the law is being applied incorrectly.[15] Colin Gonsalves, the founder of the India Center for Human Rights and Law, stated his opinion that there was no criminal offence.[16] There are further complaints that the law is misused to suppress free speech [17] Other people have spoken in his defense publicly, such as Vishal Dadlani,[18] as well as James Randi of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF)[19] who lists a link to a support page for Edamaruku. On 31 July 2012 Edamaruku moved to Finland to avoid the possibility of indefinite jail time.[20] When fellow campaigner Narendra Dabholkar was murdered in 2013, Edamaruku felt returning could put his life in peril. Edamaruku said, "I would do it again. Because any miracle which has enormous clout at one moment, is simply gone once explained. It's like a bubble. You prick it and it is finished."[17]

Views[edit]

Sanal Edamaruku speaking at The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) 2013 on the topic "Indian Gurus: From Flying Fakirs and Starving Saints"

In fact, the Indian rationalist movement has become an inspiring example for many western rationalists to awaken, activate and rejuvenate their own organizations (...) India's rationalists are on the frontline of the battle between science and superstition. (Sanal Edamaruku) [21]

Edamaruku has been a critic of Mother Teresa.

Edamaruku frequently speaks of the potentially dangerous practice of superstitions such as Hindu astrology which is prevalent in Indian society.[22] He is a regular TV commentator on various Indian TV channels explaining superstitions and blind belief and is a major voice in defense of reason and scientific temper in India.[2] He has also delivered lectures in various countries including the US and many European countries.

Godmen in India have often been accused of indulging in criminal activities under the saffron robe that ushers in followers, fame and funds. According to Edamaruku, most are charlatans and quite a few have amassed great wealth and property from "miracles" that are nothing more than sleight of hand.[23]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Australian writer Greg Egan used the story of Edamaruku, the Indian Rationalist Association and the Tantra Challenge in his novel Teranesia.
  • Edamaruku also appears as a character in Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen's novel French Lover.
  • Angela Saini's book GeekNation has a chapter "Chariot of Gods" that describes Edamaruku's work.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Rationalist International". 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Shaffer, R (March–April 2013). "Blasphemy, Free Speech, and Rationalism: An Interview with Sanal Edamaruku". The Humanist. Retrieved 2013-02-23. "Blasfemia, libertad de expresión, y el racionalismo: Una entrevista con Sanal Edamaruku". The Humanist/Europa Laicismo. March 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-23. 
  3. ^ Kumar, Shikha. "I thought Jesus was Cinderella's brother". DNA India. Diligent Media Corporation. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Lad, Vrushali (6 May 2012). "Batting for reason in a land of faith". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Quack, Johannes (2012). Disenchanting India: Organized Rationalism and Criticism of Religion in India. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-19-981260-8. 
  6. ^ a b Zuckerman, Phil (2010). Atheism and Secularity. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-313-35181-5. 
  7. ^ "CSI announces new Fellows". Retrieved 2011-08-07. 
  8. ^ "Rationalist Association (UK) Board of Directors and Supporters". 
  9. ^ "Eagle & Eagle". Eagletv.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-15. 
  10. ^ Edamaruku, Sanal. "Embarking on a Great Journey". Blogspot. Retrieved 2 March 2014. 
  11. ^ "The Great Tantra Challenge". Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  12. ^ "India TV's Great Tantra Challenge". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  13. ^ Ashley D'Mello & Vijay V Singh (16 April 2012). "FIR against rationalist, cops call him for questioning". The Times of India. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  14. ^ http://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/IndianPenalCode/S295A.htm
  15. ^ A Rationalist Fights to Disprove Miracles in India (Audio file). Public Radio International. 23 Nov 2012. 
  16. ^ Dube, Priyanka (4 December 2012). "Indian rationalist stays in Finland fearing arrest for hurting religious sentiments". IBNLive. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Dissanayake, Samanthi (2 June 2014). "The Indian miracle-buster stuck in Finland". Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  18. ^ Ghose, Sagarika. "Support pours in for Indian rationalist forced to live in Finland fearing arrest". CNN-IBN. Retrieved 6 December 2013. 
  19. ^ Randi, James. "A Matter of Very Great Concern". JREF. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 
  20. ^ Sims, Paul. "Sanal Edamaruku: an update". 18 June 2012. New Humanist Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 
  21. ^ Why Rationalism? By Sanal Edamaruku
  22. ^ Guttormson, Joel. "Meet the Amazing TAMers: Sanal Edamaruku Part 2". TAM 2013 James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  23. ^ Sarkar, Sonia. "Gods of Bad Things". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 March 2014. 

External links[edit]