Sanal Edamaruku, a 61-year-old Indian man, was forced to flee India after being accused of blasphemy over exposing claimed “miracle” at a local church in Mumbai for being a fraud. Edamaruku has been living in Finland in the past 4 years to evade his arrest.
Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, describes himself as a ‘miracle-buster’ who aims to demystify false superstitious beliefs. In March 2012, Edamaruku investigated into a “miracle” in Our Lady of Velankanni church in Mumbai where a statue of Christ was allegedly dripping water from its toe. With the help of an engineer, Edamaruku traced the source of the drip as an overflowing drain, “which was in turn fed by a pipe that issued from a nearby toilet”.
After publishing his findings, Catholic Secular Forum filed complaints against Edamaruku in several police stations, accusing him of being offensive towards the Catholic church. The complaints were made under Section 295a of India’s penal code (‘blasphemy’ law) for insulting religion, punishable with up to three years in prison.
Edamaruku referred to the charges in an interview for BBC News:
“Under this law a policeman can simply arrest me even though there has been no investigation… they can just arrest me without a warrant and keep me in prison for a long time… That risk I do not want to take”
Edamaruku has suffered from threatening phone calls and online bullying for his speech. In July 2012, he decided to flee to Finland in order to escape his arrest. Edamaruku left behind him a daughter and a grandchild.
Notwithstanding his longing to his homeland, Edamaruku expresses no regrets:
“I miss a lot of people… That I cannot meet them is something that saddens me… [However,] I don’t regret anything I said. I feel that I have full right to express my views… I am open for discussion and correction but I am not willing to accept anybody’s bullying, change my views or submit to their pressure to apologise… 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”