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A year and a half after the brutal murder of Narendra Dabholkar on 20th August 2013, another Communist leader and Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti activist Govind Pansare and his wife Uma been shot in a similar manner in Kolhapur today.

[tweetthis twitter_handles="@Vidyut, @_AamJanata"]Attacks on progressive thinkers are on the rise and this is not acceptable[/tweetthis]

Govind Pansare faced considerable anger from Hindutva extremist groups as the main organizer of the talk "Who killed Karkare?" based on the book by former Inspector General of Police, Shamshuddin Mushrif and was an active leader of the Communist Party of India from Kolhapur.

Who killed Karkare?
Who killed Karkare?

Govind Pansare is said to be gravely injured on his neck. He is admitted in Kolhapur's Austere Adhaar Hospital with severe blood loss and is being operated upon. Close aide Nivas Salokhe has told Indian Express reporter that he is undergoing surgery. His wife Uma is said to be stable.

News still coming in. Post will be updated.

[tweetthis]Remembering the initial news of the attack on Govind Pansare. He died of injuries.[/tweetthis]

Anti-superstition activists are increasingly under attack from right wing extremists in Maharashtra.

Protesters in Pune after attack on Govind Pansare

Protests in Pune after attack on Govind Pansare
Protests in Pune after attack on Govind Pansare. Photo: Sameer Khan

Much of the news compiled here, unless otherwise mentioned, is from @AlkaDhupkar on Twitter.


Precognition has always fascinated man. That power of knowing what will happen and harnessing it to live with the insight of hindsight. From reading tea leaves to fingerprints and stars to numbers, mankind has pretty much stretched the limit of wishful thinking. Countless attempts to provide proofs that such knowledge exists range from seeing prophesies in texts to peudo scientific claptrap.

India has perfected this into an art form with an abundance of babas and fakirs and what nots with their own "brand" that followers claim to be the true one. There isn't the least attempt to apply any critical thinking, and attempts to ask too many questions can lead to anger. It is almost like people want that reassurance, even suspecting it is meaningless, because it brings comfort. The only good thing about it is that it is probably a better choice than drinking away troubles and about as useful.

We have elected ministers gracing the walls of various Ashrams and this can mean anything from looking away as lands get encroached and party trick miracles to adamant refusals to believe rape victims of exploiting gurus. Other ministers have been known to promote bogus objects that are little better than gift items for far more money by promising great health, wealth and etc.

The Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti, an anti-superstition organization has time and again challenged these bogus practices by bringing in the spirit of critical inquiry (and downright criticism) and has led to embarrassment for the astrologers when bright futures were predicted on the horoscope of a child dead within hours of birth. Other challenges include predicting poll results (which could possibly be done with available political insight as well?), asking for astrologers to participate in double blind studies on the effectiveness of astrology or plain old making a point with kundali (horoscope) burning events. It wasn't funny when Dabholkar got killed though.

And that is the crux of the issue. Most of the religious cults and business babas are big money, thug power and with tremendous political backing (useful for votes). While the common man is scandalized by irreverence, the scams couldn't last without organized brainwashing and sometimes pretty severe retaliations as Sanal Edamaruku discovered when he found the church hounding him after he exposed that the "miraculous water" seeping trough the feet of an idol of Jesus was actually drainage water being pulled by capillary action (in other words, normal seepage, except that here was an idol involved).

There are many cults determined to counter any rationalist movements that threaten their control over the masses through gibberish. Hindu Janjagruti Samiti is another example of such an organization. Their website is a revelation in invented hate propaganda, and a campaign to fight the anti-superstition bill.

And it is high time people asked for their brains back.

You mean planets floating around in the sky decide my life, and I'm the idiot working hard to make it how I want? Try again. Harder.

Don't tell me about the moon influencing tides being an example. The moon may influence tides all it wants, but my plumbing isn't affected by it. I have yet to have a day for stronger water flow on the full moon and regardless of what's happening inside anyone else's heads, believe me, I don't have blood and brains sloshing around inside waiting to lean toward the side of my head where the moon is. Everything is packed and in position like it should be, thank you very much.

astrological mosaic from Israel
Astrology is a group of systems, traditions, and beliefs in which knowledge of the relative positions of celestial bodies and related details is held to be useful in understanding, interpreting, and organizing information about personality, human affairs, and other terrestrial matters.

I see all this belief and wonder how education is limited to books, and not applied to anything it has not been recommended for.

Let's do a quick exercise. Remember your life. Great. Did you remember EVERYTHING? Obviously not. You remembered stuff that stuck in your memory. What happened to the rest? What about that lunch you had exactly 10 years ago? What was the menu? Chances are, you will not remember. Astrological miracles are like that, as are personality profiles and other forecasts. Most of them are vague enough to fit in with most people, who in glorious self-centered bliss imagine that they are the only ones who fit the bill so perfectly. Obviously, the words are designed to feel good. Therefore, Mr. Astrologer is credible. Huh?

And what of those silly goof ups he foretold, or read in your behaviour? Well.... you don't really find them remarkable do you? So like that lunch 10 years ago, they're gone.... somewhere in the bottomless storehouse of the brain, not to be reclaimed in all likelihood. So now what? Perfectly credible Mr. Astrologer has a very high rate of accuracy to boot.

The final selling point is of course in his unshakable belief in your value as a person. The qualities you see in yourself being reflected in his words...... Do you honestly have ANY clue on how many people think of themselves as analytical, thoughtful, reclusive, expressive, mysterious, capable of making friends with anyone, etc? Even if loner and magnetic were used in the same list of description, chances are every human on earth has experienced both moods and remembers experiencing them when reminded by those words. Voila! The description fits like a glove.

Spare me!

Forecasts are an even enlightening experience. An all-in-one chance to flatter, guide and secure unending belief. "Today is an excellent time to throw a party if you're inclined" variety. Heh. Really? If I am inclined, I will throw the party and enjoy myself and credit goes to astrologer for predicting that I will enjoy myself if I throw a party? Success is yours providing you persevere and remain wary of careless mistakes. How can one be wary of careless mistakes? You will save money if you can avoid those impulsive purchases. No! What a miracle!

Failed prediction? Something must have gone wrong! Well.....obviously, no? Apparently not. The mistake is in some elaborate calamity or unnoticed danger in the stars - not something as mundane as a chappie taking a risk that didn't work out.

I have yet to find a prediction that has a clearly defined circumstance of failure and still comes true (except for my very famous political predictions, but they are based on analysis of news, not stars).

For those who wish to convert me, indulge me. Find me an astrologer who will make 10 predictions with very clear definitions of success, and let's explore how many actually come true. I'm not interested in the 10 outstanding successes of a 20 year career. Show me the results of 10 consecutive predictions and then we'll talk.


On 11th of April, charges under Section 295 A, Indian Penal Code, have been filed against Sanal Edamaruku in at least three Mumbai police stations: in Juhu, in MIDC and in Andheri. He has not got any papers that he can file a reply to, but an inspector keeps calling him and asking him to come and be arrested (yeah, right).

To those who don't know what I'm talking about Sanal exposed "miracle" water dripping from a Christ statue in Irla to be drain water being drawn by capillary action. Solid science. Unfortunately, Gods and logic don't mix, as Sanal is finding out the hard way. The Church threatened to tangle him in court cases on National TV [yeah, read that post, it is entertaining] and horrifyingly, have proceeded to do exactly that. Read more about this nonsense here.

In other words, a blasphemy law is going to be used to harass the debunking of a falsely claimed miracle. Our court system being what it is, it is also a weapon of attack. When you file multiple cases in Mumbai on someone staying in Delhi, the next few years of his life are fucked in travel and expenses - regardless of what the court finally decides. Which is something the corrupt know well, and it is an established way of silencing people.

What is happening here is no protection of a God from blasphemy, but a deliberate targeting of a person for exposing fraud. The priests were so brazen as to threaten him on air and then proceed to do exactly that. Make no mistake, there is a profit in miracles. Firstly, there is the immediate profit from increased worshippers and thus donations. Then, there is the long term elevation of the church in terms of reputation. There is also the need for miracles for manufacturing saints. All in all, miracles are a precious commodity to a church, and Sanal broke the jackpot. And then of course, there is the ego. Humility is to preach, arrogance and injustice to practice. Normal religious leader thinking.

If it truly had anything at all to do with worship or loving or respecting God, I imagine the priests wouldn't want the idol sucking drain water or the followers collecting and drinking it or sprinkling it in their homes. In theory, they would be glad that such a blasphemy was prevented from going further through the actions of Sanal.

Now let us get this straight. The church has an official process for recognizing miracles, which also includes challenging them, as far as I know. So what Sanal did, doesn't even break any church norm as such. On the contrary, the Church has a formal process for recognizing miracles, which doesn't particularly seem to have been followed. Or perhaps they are recognized post facto, once all the water is gone and no tests can be possible [or allowed]. Not brushed up on the church stuff for a while.

Also notice how the TV channel didn't get cases filed against it. It was the channel who got Sanal there to debunk the miracle, no? But then, a corporation would probably suck a church dry and earn TRPs while doing it.

In any case, what is happening with Sanal is wrong. Chances are very high that the court will eventually yawn and ask everyone to go home. Not much hope that they would fine a place of worship for being stupid, because that is fairly normal. Worst case scenario, the court will stick to our National stupidity campaign and let even this bizarrely ridiculous charge result in him being punished for 3 years or so.

The point is that the best case scenario is already a punishment. A misuse of the legal system to attack someone, in fact. And there is no way for Sanal to stop this.

However, I think we should give a shot at pressuring the church to get off his back. Questioning the church, bad publicity, educated, progressive Christians influencing their churches to openly refuse to back this bizarre campaign, people going and praying a special Sanal prayer [below], sending postcards with the prayer on it to the Church, whatever works. We shouldn't drop this catch, because there are plenty of crazies in our country, and we need cons like fake miracles exposed if we are ever to exist superstitions.

Here is the prayer I suggest. Feel free to improvise:

Dear Lord, grant me  the desire to seek knowledge and the courage to be honest. In particular, let me understand capillary action in detail so that I may never let your statue soak in drain water. Amen.

Sanal Edamaruku, president of IRA Was invited to examine a certain crucifix in Irla (Vile Parle - West) by TV-9. The reason was Jesus was dripping water from its feet. Ever ready to believe the paranormal, worshipers had started flocking to collect that "Holy" water and the usual three ring circus ensued, I believe, with priests promoting the miracle with photos of the miracle, etc.

Sanal, as the president of IRA has a formiddable reputation for debunking such superstitious beliefs (duh, rationalist). So in inviting him, there is a certain understanding that the natural reason for the occurrence will be found out. That happened.

Here is a video of the investigation from TV-9

The water was found to be drawn from a nearby drainage through capillary action. He explained the process and later participated in a television debate with five church officials. Here's the debate:

So, to make a long story short, the church authorities tried to bully him into apologizing, then they threatened him with a court case for blasphemy. Right there in front of *cough* God and everyone. They threatened to file lots of court cases against him. And they did.

Post this, things are more unclear. Sanal hasn't been arrested yet. There are cases filed against him in several police stations, any of whom could take initiative in arresting him. Considering the orthodox and generally blind faith friendly mob mentality of our country, no one knows how quickly this will end or how far it will go. Hie safety from extra-curricular extra-devout Christians is also unknown. But so far, he is free.

There is a defense fund set up for him, and if you appreciate his de-stupidification efforts for the country, and you would like to contribute, it is a very good time to do it, since considerable time and money being spent to the point of paralysis is why so many cases get filed against a person. Unless someone in the religious thugs comes to their senses, they are almost certain to be trying to make his life miserable.

That said, I want to point out a few things and raise a few questions:

  1. If the Church authorities did not want their precious miracle debunked, why not stop him from investigating? If they were on the side of honesty, why print and promote a miracle that wasn't?
  2. What kind of trouble TV-9 are facing or supporting him through? Considering that they did this together? Or is this to be the typical drive by needling of religion, leaving their guests to suffer the harassment of criminal leaders? Note: He was demanded an apology for doing nothing more than finding the cause of the drip. And threatened with cases when he refused to apologize. On TV.
  3. What action has been taken by the police against the Church for both the threats as well as the fraud?
  4. From having a fairly strong resistance to superstition in the Maharashtra region, how have we reached this point that a person can be publicly threatened and bullied for debunking superstition? What is this intellectual cost we as a people have paid?
  5. Will the people who visited the church to witness this fraudulent miracle file complaints against say.... Section 415 of the IPC - which deals with cheating or misrepresentation?
  6. Will people who drank the "Holy" water be entitled to compensation and reimbursement of any health consequences?

It is common in India for the one with the capacity to bully be immune from harm. In every aspect of life. Will we allow this rubbish to continue?

I suggest staying tuned to this space and supporting in any initiatives that may further be needed if the Church continues with their harassment.