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Indian Miracle-Buster

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Touch upon even the absurdest beliefs of the masses and have them call for your blood.

 

Interesting story from India, for a change.

 


 

An Indian man who made his name exposing the "miraculous" feats of holy men as tricks has fled the country after being accused of blasphemy. Now in self-imposed exile in Finland, he fears jail - or even assassination - if he returns.

 

When a Hindu fakir declared on live television that he could kill anybody with tantric chanting, Sanal Edamaruku simply had to take him up on the challenge.

 

As both were guests in the studio, the fakir was put to the test immediately.

 

The channel cancelled all subsequent programming and he began chanting on the spot. But as the hours passed a note of desperation crept into his raspy mantras. For his part, Edamaruku, president of the Indian Rationalist Association, showed no sign of discomfort, let alone death. He merely chortled his way through this unconventional (and unsuccessful) attempt on his life.

 

He has spent his life as a prominent member of India's small band of miracle-busters, men who dedicate their life to traversing the country demystifying certain beliefs.

 

In the 1990s Edamaruku visited hundreds of villages replicating the apparently fabulous feats some self-proclaimed holy men became renowned for - the materialisations of watches or "holy" ash - exposing them as mere sleight of hand.

 

But in 2012, four years after his televised encounter with the fakir, a steady drip of water from the toe of a statue of Christ genuinely did, he believes, put his life in danger.

 

Immediately hailed as a miracle, hundreds of Catholic devotees and other curious residents flocked to the shrine in a nondescript Mumbai suburb to watch the hypnotic drip. Some even drank the droplets.

 

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Edamaruku was challenged to investigate and so he went to the site with an engineer friend and traced the source of the drip backwards. Moisture on the wall the statue was mounted on seemed to come from an overflowing drain, which was in turn fed by a pipe that issued from a nearby toilet.

 

The "miracle" was simply bad plumbing, he said.

 

It was then that the situation turned ugly.

 

In the following weeks, three police stations in Mumbai took up blasphemy cases filed against him by Catholic groups under the notorious Section 295a of India's colonial-era penal code.

 

He decided to leave early for a European lecture tour. Finland was the first country to give him a visa and he had friends on the Finnish humanist scene willing to help.

 

...the furore has not died down - the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), one of the groups that made the initial complaint, still insists it will press for prosecution should he ever return.

 

Two years on, he is angry, bitter and defiant. Living in a small flat on the eastern edge of Helsinki, he has forced himself to adjust to an alien landscape.

 

But Edamaruku fears for his safety, pointing to the fate of his friend, anti-black-magic campaigner Narendra Dabholkar.

 

"Narendra Dabholkar… suggested that if I come to Mumbai he and his friends would be able to protect me. I was considering his proposal," Edamaruku recalls, referring to a conversation last summer.

 

But four days later he was murdered, a crime which many believe was linked to his campaign against magic.

 

Read the full article HERE

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