Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Atheist Varsity in Vijayawada

We reproduce a report from The Hindu (27 September 2011) filed by its correspondent from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh::

The Atheist Centre here will open the country's first atheism university and research centre, coinciding with the centenary celebrations of social activist Saraswathi Gora on Wednesday. 

The centre had been promoting a casteless society with a scientific outlook to help remove superstitions on a path shown by popular atheist Goparaju Ramachandra Rao (Gora).

Saraswathi Gora and their nine children not only carried forward the atheist ideology through practice, involving themselves in promoting alternative way of life with scientific outlook, and helping several researchers from all over the world to study this social aspect.

The university and research centre will not be affiliated to any conventional institution. It will have a large database of study material based on work done by Gora and other socialists from Germany or the United States. “We have roped in world's best resource persons and guides, who provide the right direction with the researcher not having to visit Vijayawada many times,” Atheist Centre directors Vijayam and Samaram told The Hindu.

Ground level actions of Gora and Saraswathi to remove the Devadasi system, and their interaction with Mahatma Gandhi, have been documented through several books, photographs and newspapers articles. 

(Readers of this blog may note that Atheist Centre is celebrating the birth centenary of Saraswati Gora today and tomorrow - 28 & 29 September 2011. See our related blog: Saraswati Gora's Birth Centenary)

Sunday, 25 September 2011

September 30 - International Blasphemy Rights Day!

Founded in 2009 by the Center for Inquiry, International Blasphemy Rights Day seeks to establish September 30 as an International Day to promote the right to criticize (lampooning not excluded!) religion without inviting reprisals from religious bigots and governments.

Blasphemy laws the world over (that is, wherever the laws exist) have been used to suppress legitimate criticism of religion. In some countries such as Pakistan, Blasphemy is a serious crime punishable with death.
Click here for the Facebook page of the event: International Blasphemy Rights Day

Blasphemy in India

Though in India we do not have a blasphemy law, certain sections of the Indian Penal Code have been used by the authorities and religious groups to harass those who wittingly or unwittingly ‘hurt’ the ‘religious sentiments’ of certain individuals or religious groups.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Why I Am An Atheist

Ramesh Nagaragere

Like any child born into a middle class, upper caste family in India I was also part of the traditional ways of thinking and living, but with a touch of liberalism. I was initiated to be a dwija (twice born) at a very young age as it happens in the case of most of the male children of such families and I accepted all the practices without a trace of doubt or question. However, the liberal air which was also pervading the family had its own dose of impact on me. Though I accepted all the practices without question, I was not very serious about performing them and was not very much convinced about their efficacy either. 

Gradually I came to be introduced to new writings even when in high school. These writings did their work   silently and I began to question, though mockingly, some of the traditional practices which were and are common in many such families as mine.  But I was not yet skeptical about the existence of god as such. I used to visit temples as a faithful devotee though was not very much given to indulge in the performances which were too long and monotonous.  When I entered college my doubts about the traditional beliefs and practices got extended to the very idea of god. I was introduced to the writings of Bertrand Russell and through him to other such   thoughts which reflected his positions. Though not strictly a student of science, I came to be convinced that it is science and scientific thinking   which formed the basis for a proper understanding of the world and its physical structure. Similarly,  it also began to dawn on me that questions about human life and existence also could be answered better if one followed the method of science, instead of simply ascribing every thing to the power of god. Then there were also questions about the different perceptions about the idea of god, which had been  present some where in my mind  ever since I was a school going boy  I had quite a few friends belonging to different religions. But I had not taken those questions seriously then. As I began to probe matters pertaining to god and religion at a stage when I was more mature I could understand, I thought, the beginning of the concept of god better. I was convinced that   god was nothing but a result of human imagination which was a necessary at a time when humans needed to have explanations for the various natural phenomena which they could not scientifically explain for want of the much needed information about them. During this period I was also strongly drawn towards Marxism and that did it all.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Gujarat’s Wounds: Can Fasting Bring Harmony?

Ram Puniyani

Life is full of strange paradoxes. Narendra Modi undertook fast for three days for Sadbhavna (Harmony), to mark complete peace, unity and harmony (Sept 2011). This came in the backdrop of the Supreme Court verdict which has asked the trial court to examine all the evidence and amicus curie’s report so that his culpability or otherwise in Gulbarg society case is decided. The Supreme Court order has directed the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to file its final report into the allegations of Narendra Modi being the architect-in-chief of the 2002 Gujarat massacre. This was interpreted by BJP as a clean chit to Modi. Modi in turn took sigh of relief and pronounced, ‘God is great’. Shrewd as Modi is, he has tried to project that this has exonerated him from his sins of Gujarat carnage 2002. 

Image Courtesy: The Hindu

On one hand this fast is seen as an attempt to project him on the national scene, as after the political absence of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the eclipse on the fortunes of Lal Krishna Advani, there is tussle for the top slot in BJP. So far Modi has been projecting an image of man for development, but we know that the minorities and many allies of NDA are keeping a safe distance from Modi. This is a hindrance for his Prime Ministerial ambitions. BJP on other hand is celebrating the Supreme Court verdict just to create an impression of victory, which it is not. Now the process of justice is wide open and the path is open for the legal battle in times to come. It also seems that many goals have merged together leading to this fast by Modi. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Is there a communal angle to Anna Hazare Upsurge?

Ram Puniyani

The nation heaved a sigh of relief when Anna Hazare broke his fast (August 2011). The breaking of the fast with coconut water offered by a dalit and a Muslim girl was an attempt to project as if Anna’s upsurge represents all the sections of society and is not just having a narrow social base of elite middle class. Now as the matters stand a large section of dalits and Muslims are standing up to raise their voices against the ‘Anna claim’ that it is an inclusive upsurge. Congress in its frustration said that Anna Hazare is an agent of RSS, how far is this true?

A survey conducted by an agency, post Anna upsurge, showed that the episode of Anna fasting has changed the political equations quite a bit. One, the BJP support base has expanded and that of Congress has declined. Two, the popularity of Rahul Gandhi has taken a beating and that of Anna Hazare has zoomed up to the sky. Enthused by these developments, the professional Rath yatri, whose Rath yatras led to the process of demolition of Babri masjid, massive communal violence and polarization of Indians along religious lines, has jumped into the band wagon of anti corruption movement and has declared that he will take out an anti Corruption yatra. Life has strange paradoxes. BJP, where ever in power has been as corrupt as possible and now with this rath yatra, on one hand Advani is throwing his hat into the race for being Prime-ministerial candidate for BJP in forthcoming Loksabha elections, and on the other hand BJP by supporting the permanent aspirant for prime-ministership, is also trying to show as if it is really above being the allurement of corruption. A case of nau so chuhe kha kar billi chali haj ko!(After eating 900 rats, cat is trying to strike a pious pose) Team Anna after feeling that they have gained legitimacy in popular psyche is now planning various train yatras in states facing elections. The Kejrivals and Kiran Bedis do know who will electorally benefit from their efforts.   


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