Prominent Indian rationalist who waged war on superstition dies after being shot by assassins

A MAN who dedicated his life to exposing fraudulent “god men” who prey on the poor in India was shot dead yesterday just days after the Government said it was planning to introduce a controversial anti-superstition law he was championing.

Narendra Dabholkar, 71, was attacked by two gunmen on motorbikes while he was taking his morning walk and shot dead in the city of Pune.

He was known for founding the Committee for the Eradication of Blind Faith more than 20 years ago.

Dabholkar and his committee (Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti) was particularly well-known for openly criticising some of India’s so-called “godmen”, the self-styled Hindu ascetics who claim to perform miracles and are revered by many. He also campaigned against animal sacrifices used in certain rituals.

Read more at The Freethinker.

See here for a friend of Narendra Dabholkar who visited the UK earlier this year.

Drop blasphemy charges against Sanal Edamaruku

Read the full story at the New Humanist blog.

One year after blasphemy complaints were filed against him, Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku remains at risk of imprisonment. We now call on the Indian Prime Minister to intervene in his case.

Sanal Edamaruku at the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni, Mumbai, March 2012

It is now one year since blasphemy complaints were filed against the Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku, by Catholic organisations unhappy with his debunking of a supposed miracle in a Mumbai church. (Water was dripping from a crucifix statue in the church, and Edamaruku traced the source of the water to faulty plumbing nearby.)

Having been denied “anticipatory bail”, Edamaruku would face imprisonment upon arrest, a fact which has forced him to remain away from his home in Delhi for much of the last year.

Last summer, we launched a petition calling on India’s Catholic authorities to use their influence to encourage the Mumbai-based Catholic organisations to drop their complaints. The petition attracted more than 12,000 signatures from concerned individuals across the globe. Despite this international pressure, the Catholic Church in India has ignored the call to intervene in the interests of Indian free expression.

With Edamaruku remaining at risk of arrest and imprisonment, a new approach is required. This is why we have launched a new petition calling on India’s Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, to do all he can to have the charges dropped.

Freedom of speech and the duty to develop “the Scientific Temper” are enshrined in the Indian constitution, and we are now calling upon Dr, Singh as well as Prithviraj Chavan, Chief Minister of the State of Maharashtra, to protect these values and ensure that Edamaruku can go about his important work without harassment.

Please sign the petition and pass it on to friends and colleagues.

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