26 May 1955 |
Thodupuzha, Kerala, India
|Alma mater||University of Kerala|
|Known for||President of the Indian Rationalist Association and founder-President of Rationalist International|
Sanal Edamaruku is an Indian author and rationalist. He is the founder-president and editor of Rationalist International, the president of the Indian Rationalist Association and the author of twenty-five books and other articles. In 2012, he was charged by a group of Catholics with blasphemy for his role in examining a claimed "miracle" at a local church in Mumbai. He moved to Finland to evade his arrest.
Edamaruku was born in 1955 in Thodupuzha, Kerala, India to Joseph Edamaruku, an Indian scholar and author, and Soley Edamaruku. 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".
He became a rationalist-atheist activist at the age of fifteen, after seeing a neighbourhood athlete's death after her family refused medical treatment because they believed in faith healing. In 1977, he obtained a master's degree in Political Science from the University of Kerala. In 1980, he received his 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.
Edamaruku has been active in the Indian Rationalist Association (IRA) from the age of fifteen. Before becoming the president in 2005, he served as the General Secretary beginning in 1983, and has been the editor of its publication 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.
In February 2011, Edamaruku was elected as a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (USA) and is an Honorary Associate of New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists and Rationalist Association of UK (formerly Rationalist Press Association).
Edamaruku has carried out investigations and demonstrations which helped expose frauds, mystics and god men as well as conducting campaigns against superstition in Indian villages. He refers to this as "Rationalist Reality Theatre" These investigations have attracted the attention of print and television media throughout Asia. The documentary film Guru Busters 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 in building 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.
In December 2013, Edamaruku announced the launch of a new quarterly English language magazine The Rationalist on his blog. Contributors will include international rationalists on several continents and content will focus on science, reason, critical thinking and human rights.
The Great Tantra Challenge
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. 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.
2012 blasphemy case
In March 2012, Edamaruku investigated a report that a crucifix at Our Lady of Velankanni church in Mumbai was dripping water from the feet. This incident, though not claimed by the Catholic Church as a miracle, was believed by many to be one. Research by Edamaruku indicated that the dripping was caused by capillary action from a clogged drain.
In April 2012 the Catholic Secular Forum in Mumbai filed a complaint under Section 295(A) of the Indian Penal Code in several police stations around the city. 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.
The Archbishop of Mumbai asked Edamaruku to apologise in exchange for dropping the charges, while the All India Catholic Union said the law was being applied incorrectly. Colin Gonsalves, the founder of the India Center for Human Rights and Law, stated his opinion that no criminal offence had been committed. There were further complaints that the law was being misused to suppress free speech. Others spoke in his defense publicly, such as Vishal Dadlani, and James Randi.
On 31 July 2012 Edamaruku moved to Finland to avoid the possibility of indefinite jail time. 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."
Edamaruku has been critical of India's blasphemy laws, describing them as "relics of colonial legislation" which have been abused to "hound and silence" intellectuals and artists who question religious beliefs. He considers it dangerous that any person may register a complaint of blasphemy against another, leading to an arrest and prolonged imprisonment until the suspect is acquitted by a court of law. Edamaruku argues that the real danger here is less the verdict and more the pre-trial "punishment".
Edamaruku has been a critic of Mother Teresa, publicly criticising her legacy in Kolkata. He has also spoken out against the Catholic Church's sainthood of Mother Theresa, and the 'miracle' cure of Monica Besra. While the church's evidence is based on a written testimony in English by Besra, an illiterate woman who isn't able to speak the language, claiming a cure by a medallion placed on her by nuns, Edamaruku has pointed out her cure could be reasonably ascribed to the treatment she received in a government hospital in Balurghat and the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital from Dr. Tarun Kumar Biwas and gynecologist Dr. Ranjan Mustafi using modern conventional medicine. After investigating her care record the former health minister of West Bengal, Partho De, has also agreed her recovery was attributable to her months of medical care. Edamaruku describes the miracle as an "obvious fraud."
Edamaruku frequently speaks of the potentially dangerous practice of superstitions such as Hindu astrology which is prevalent in Indian society. 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. 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.
Edamaruku considers the Indian rationalist movement an "inspiring example for many western rationalists to awaken, activate and rejuvenate their own organisations", with India's rationalists being "on the frontline of the battle between science and superstition".
In popular culture
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- 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.
- Hindi popular movies Kala Bandar and OMG are inspired by Edamaruku's studies about the Indian urban legends and his challenges against the Indian gurus.
- Aamir Khan's character in the Hindi film PK is also partially inspired by Sanal Edamaruku's work against superstitions and his tantra challenge where a guru was challenged by him in 2008 on live TV to prove his powers by killing him.
- "Rationalist International".
- Pinter, Andras; Levin, Jelena; Bockman, Pontus (May 13, 2016). "Episode #22, Featuring Sanal Edamaruku". The European Skeptics Podcast. Retrieved 25 August 2016.
- Dissanayake, Samanthi (2 June 2014). "The Indian miracle-buster stuck in Finland". BBC. BBC.
- 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.
- Kumar, Shikha. "I thought Jesus was Cinderella's brother". DNA India. Diligent Media Corporation. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- Lad, Vrushali (6 May 2012). "Batting for reason in a land of faith". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- 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.
- Zuckerman, Phil (2010). Atheism and Secularity. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. p. 147. ISBN 978-0-313-35181-5.
- "CSI announces new Fellows". Retrieved 2011-08-07.
- "Rationalist Association (UK) Board of Directors and Supporters".
- "Eagle & Eagle". Eagletv.co.uk. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
- Edamaruku, Sanal. "Embarking on a Great Journey". Blogspot. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
- "The Great Tantra Challenge". Retrieved 2008-03-25.
- "India TV's Great Tantra Challenge". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
- "PRESS STATEMENT ON MR. SANAL EDAMARUKU".
- Dissanayake, Samanthi. "The Indian miracle-buster stuck in Finland". BBC. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- 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.
- Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 vakilno1.com
- A Rationalist Fights to Disprove Miracles in India (Audio file). Public Radio International. 23 Nov 2012.
- Dube, Priyanka (4 December 2012). "Indian rationalist stays in Finland fearing arrest for hurting religious sentiments". IBNLive. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- Dissanayake, Samanthi (2 June 2014). "The Indian miracle-buster stuck in Finland". Retrieved 4 June 2014.
- Ghose, Sagarika. "Support pours in for Indian rationalist forced to live in Finland fearing arrest". CNN-IBN. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- Randi, James. "A Matter of Very Great Concern". JREF. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- Sims, Paul. "Sanal Edamaruku: an update". 18 June 2012. New Humanist Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- Ryan Shaffer (15 February 2013). "Blasphemy, Free Speech, and Rationalism: An Interview with Sanal Edamaruku". The Humanist. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
- Henry McDonald (23 November 2012). "Jesus wept … oh, it's bad plumbing. Indian rationalist targets 'miracles'". the Guardian. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
- Edamaruku, Sanal. "Catholic Church manufactured an ovarian miracle for Mother Teresa". Church and State. Retrieved 19 November 2016.
- Guttormson, Joel. "Meet the Amazing TAMers: Sanal Edamaruku Part 2". TAM 2013 James Randi Educational Foundation. Retrieved 28 February 2014 – via YouTube.
- Sarkar, Sonia. "Gods of Bad Things". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
- Sanal Edamaruku (May 28, 2006). "Why Rationalism?". Indian Rationalist Association. Retrieved 2 November 2015.
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