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PUCL, April 2004

Urgent action to protect life of Malayalam writer and eminent rationalist leader Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam in Kerala

PEOPLES UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES
KERALA STATE COMMITTEE
GANDHI BHAVAN, KACHERIPADY, BANERJI ROAD, KOCHI 682
018, KERALA

http://www.pucl.org
PRESIDENT: Adv:P.A.Pauran: GENERAL SECRETARY:
Vilayody Venugopal
TREASURER: Jacob V. Lazer

URGENT ACTION
MOVE EARTH AND HEAVEN TO PROTECT THE LIFE OF
SREENI PATTATHANAM - An Appeal

A National Defense Committee (NDC) was formed by PUCL,
Kerala to further the actions against the Kerala
Government’s inhuman Order against the Malayalam
writer and eminent rationalist leader Mr. Sreeni
Pattathanam. Following the NDC, the Peoples Union for
Civil Liberties (PUCL) State Committee has passed a
resolution to support the writer Mr. Pattathanam. It
appeals before every human rights activist and
like-minded people to help this cause in whatever way
they can. What follows is a short account of the
controversial issue, which led the author Sreeni
Pattathanam to become the prey of religious fanatics.

About the author
Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam is a Malayalam writer who has
ten books and many investigative reports to his
credit. He was born in Kollam, Kerala State. He began
his career in Police Department, which helped him to
find the unjustifiable alliance between the State and
Religion. Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam was instrumental,
among others, several years ago in exposing the
‘miracle’ of the divine Makarajyoti light, which
appears during the annual Ayyappa pilgrimage in Kerala
on a remote hill. Having resigned from the Police
service Mr. Pattathanam joined as a teacher in a
Government school.

The investigative mind of a police officer and the
analytical mind of a school teacher gave Mr.
Pattathanam a charming presentation of his topic which
reflected in his writings as well. He traveled a lot
in the nook and corner of Kerala.

He had been the Editor of ‘Ranarekha’, rationalist
monthly, published in Malayalam. He was also the State
General Secretary of Indian Rationalist Association
(IRA) of which Mr. Sanal Edamaruku as its National
General Secretary. Currently he is the Chief Editor of
‘Yukthirajyam’, Malayalam rationalist monthly; and,
the General Secretary of Bharatiya Rationalist
Association.

About the controversial book
Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam has written a book Matha
Amritanandamayi: Divya Kathakalum Yatharthyavum (Matha
Amritanandamayi: Sacred Stories and Realities, Mass
Publicationas, Kollam, Kerala, revised edn.) that
becomes the controversial one in Malayalam language.
It was first published in 1985, since this godwoman
was not as famous as she is today. For the book there
was no demand from the Math to prosecute the author.
But later, when the lady became an incarnation of the
Lord Krishna himself, they could persuade the
government to move against the author.

Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam’s efforts to bring to light
facts are pioneering. His main contentions are: the
Math’s claims to miracles are bogus, and that there
have been many suspicious deaths in and around her
ashram, which need police investigation. The research
work contains elaborate references to court records,
newspaper reports and quotations from well-known
literary figures, including statements from the Math’s
close relatives, as well as an interview with Matha
Amritanandamayi herself.

About Matha Amritanandamayi Devi

Matha Amritanandamayi Devi ( Sudhamani, born in 1953
in the district Kollam, Kerala State, India) is known
to the world as the “hugging mother”. She was also the
subject of a televison documentary in the 'Weird
Weekends' series on BBC TV, presented by Louis
Theroux. She hugs people and passes on to them
‘energy’. Reportedly she has hugged and healed some 20
million people all over the world as part of her
mission. On Fridays she acts as the goddess Kali, and
on many occasions she has claimed to be Lord Krishna
himself.

Like god man Satya Sai Baba, she too has many
devotees: BJP leaders like Prime Minister of India
A.B. Vajpayee, Home Minister of India L.K. Advani, and
also Congress Party Chief Minister (of Kerala) A.K.
Antony are amongst them.

Home Ministry records of the Government of India show
that the Matha Amritanadamayi Mission is the second
largest recipient in India of foreign funds ­ in
1998-99 alone Rs. 51.55 crores were received (about
515 million Indian Rupees or about 11.5 million US
Dollars). Educational institutions established by this
primary school drop out enjoy Deemed University
status; Penguin India published her authorized
biography (Amma, a Living Saint by Judith Cornell)
where her miracles and her boundless love are
highlighted, and the train Amrita Express (Palghat
Town- Thiruvananthapuram) is named after her.
Her devotees have celebrated Matha Amritanadamayi’s
50th birth anniversary at Kochi. The five day long (in
2003) ceremony was in fact a festival in which all the
pompousness and luxurious attitude of the ashram was
reflected. It is said that 191 delegates from the UN
member countries were participated in the anniversary
festival. The President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul
Kalam himself inaugurated this!

The whole Eastern Religion and Philosophy especially
Vedanta declare that there is no birth and death and
man is an immortal being. Mata Amritanadamayi is
claimed to follow the Vedanta philosophy. But instead
of showing reluctance to the concepts of birth and
death she has celebrated her 50th birthday! What is
the point in a particular number? Has the number 50
got any divine significance? In fact the hidden truth
is that the devotees have made use of Amma’s birthday
for popularizing the ashram and its multifaceted
business ideals. PUCL State Committee strongly
believes that in and around the ashram many corporate
brains are being worked and the ashram itself is a
multinational corporate company.

Origin of the complaint
Let us now come to the complaint made by Adv. T.K.
Ajan, secretary, Amrita Apartments Residence
Association, of the ashram, Kollam, Kerala, for a
permission to prosecute Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam, the
author of the book as well as the publisher and
printer, under section 295-A of IPC, 292 of IPC, 196
of Cr PC with section 34 of IPC. The first
petition was filed before the The Principal Secretary,
Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of Kerala
Government’s Position

Instead of investigating the allegations and examining
the evidence produced in the book, the state
government ­ headed by the Mata’s ardent devotee the
Chief minister A.K. Antony - initiated moves to
prosecute Mr Pattathanam for making ‘objectionable
references’ to the spiritual leader, and for ‘hurting
the religious sentiments of her devotees’. With great
alacrity, the state government moved swiftly, and the
police inspector of Karunagappally recorded statements
from Sreeni Pattathanam as well as the publisher and
printer. The relevant law going to be applied would be
Section 295-A, which criminalizes ‘insulting or
attempting to insult the religion or religious beliefs
of any class of citizens with an intention of
outraging its religious feelings’.

Rising to the occasion, a group of writers and social
activists headed by
eminent Malayalam author Paul Zacharia and Human
Rights activist Mr. Mukundan C. Menon issued a
statement condemning the vindictive nature of the
government’s moves. "Since certain ruling politicians,
both at the federal and state governments, are known
devotees of the Mata, we have reasons to suspect that
there is a sinister and malicious conspiracy behind
the move to prosecute Mr Sreeni Pattathanam”.
Because of the ensuing international attention, the
government relented and halted its steps to facilitate
the prosecution of the author. However, the Mata’s
devotees against those who came to Sreeni
Pattathanam’s defense launched a relentless
internet-based campaign.

High court’s intervention
Mr. T.K. Ajan has then filed another petition before
the High Court of Kerala. Thus the government has
reopened the issue and the State Home Secretary has
summoned Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam to present himself
before him on 18th March 2003 for hearing.
After this questioning, the government of Kerala has
sanctioned Adv. T.K. Ajan to prosecute Mr. Sreeni
Pattathanam, the author of the book Matha
Amritanandamayi: Divya Kathakalum Yatharthyavum as
well as the publisher and printer. (The government
Order is attached herewith).

The question of human rights and the writer’s freedom
of expression

It was pointed out by the Supreme Court of India in
L.I.C. of India v Prof. Manubhai D. Shah (AIR 1993 SC
171: 1992 (3) SCC 637: 1992(4) JT (sc) 181), that
freedom of speech and _expression is a natural right
which a human being acquires on birth and, therefore,
it is a basic human right. This human right has been
admired as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(1948). UN Human Declarations have to be respected by
all the signatory States, which India is.
In the Preamble of the Constitution of India, the
people of India declared their solemn resolve to
secure to all its citizen liberty of thought and
_expression. This resolve is reflected in Article
19(1) (a) of the Constitution, which guarantees the
fundamental right to freedom of speech and _expression
to all citizens.

Indian Constitution affirms the right of freedom of
expression, which includes:

  1. Right to voice one’s opinion.
  2. Right to seek information and ideas.
  3. Right to receive information.
  4. Right to impart information.

An Indian State is under an obligation to create
conditions in which all the citizens can effectively
and efficiently enjoy the aforesaid rights. What Mr.
Sreeni Pattathanam has done is that he only made use
the Constitutional rights stated above. Mr.
Pattathanam says: “I believe that I worked in
accordance with the Indian Constitution…they are
trying to deny my constitutional rights.”
In Romesh Thappar v State of Madras (AIR 1950 SC 124:
1950 SCR 594:1950 SCJ 418: 1950 Cri LJ 1514), the
Supreme Court of India held that the freedom of speech
and _expression includes freedom of propagation of
ideas and this freedom is ensued by the freedom of
circulation.

Taking into consideration the above cases PUCL State
Committee has passed a resolution in which it has
criticized the government Order against the writer and
reiterated the fact that by issuing this Order the
government has violated the above two Orders of the
Supreme Court of India.

India’s first blasphemy protection was happened in
1933 when Dr. D’ Avoine, the President of the
Rationalist Association of India (RAI) from 1938 to
1944, published an article entitled, “Religion and
Morality” in the September 1933 issue of “Reason”, the
official journal of RAI at that period. The Bombay
Police confiscated all the copies of “Reason” and
later arrested Dr. D’Avoine and charged under IPC295A.
On 5th March 1934 Sir H.P. Dastur, the Chief
Presidency Magistrate of Bombay, dismissed the case by
saying that “The accused may be wrong…But the article
merely represents the writer’s view.”

Religion or charitable trust?
In the complaint of Adv. T.K. Ajan, dated 23/05/2002,
it is emphatically stated that Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam
should be punished because of his “deliberate and
malicious intention to outrage the religion and
religious feelings of the devotees of Amma” (Complaint
no.5&7). He also says that Mata Amritanandamayi Math
Amritapuri is a place of worship of the devotees of
Amma who is their religious Guru (Complaint no.3).
But there is no mention in the complaint about the
nature and content of this ‘religion’. There are many
religions in the world like Christianity, Judaism,
Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and
Zoroastrianism.

Barring Hinduism each religion has its
own founder. However, all religions have their own
particular rituals, ceremonials, principles, and
sacred books. Hinduism is a group of religious sects
each of which commonly accepts the Upanishads and the
Bhagavad Gita as scriptures. Since all these are the
known facts, the plaintiff should have stated in his
complaint the name, nature, and content of his
religion. He has not pointed out any ‘ism’ in
connection with ‘Amma’s’ name. If it is a religion
what is its religious book or books? What are their
religious principles?

If he says that it is Hinduism, which is ‘Amma’s’
religion he should not forget the truth that Hinduism
is as old as the Rig Vedic period. Besides this, each
Hindu religious sect has its own religious ideals,
which may contradict with other sects of the same
religion. All these show that criticism is not foreign
to Hinduism. The Hindu religious philosophers like
Sankara, Ramanuja, and Madhva had developed criticism
among them. But they had not prosecuted their
opponents nor had they demanded prosecution from the
political authority. Instead, they allowed a
discussion among themselves. But Mr. Sreeni
Pattathanam is being crucified by the demands of this
so-called religion and its followers.

The certificate issued by Collectorate, Kollam,
certified that “the organization/institution namely
‘Mata Amritanandamayi Math’ (Register No.
IV.9/1988(KL/KPY), Amritapuri (P.O.) Kollam District),
Kerala ­ 690525 is a charitable and non-profit making
organization in India working in the field of
Health/Social welfare/Education/Rural development as a
non-sectarian basis…” In the complaint the plaintiff
himself has given a list of charitable activities
managed by the Math.

Nowhere in the certificate is it mentioned that the
Math is a religious institution or a religion. It is
not a religion but an “organization in India working
in the field of Health/Social welfare/Education/Rural
development.”

The government of India has never accepted this Math
as a religion.

The aforesaid reasons point to the fact that the
allegation of the plaintiff in the complaint that Mr.
Sreeni Pattathanam’s book is written with “deliberate
and malicious intention to outrage the religious
feelings of the devotees of Amma” is obviously
inconsistent, illogical, and hence illegitimate.
Since the Math is not a religion Mr. Sreeni
Pattathanam has not committed any offence that comes
under the section 295-A and 292 of IPC. Rather by
demanding from the authority for the prosecution of
the author the plaintiff Adv. T.K. Ajan insulted the
sincerity and investigative mind of an author,
because, in the complaint (no.6) it is said that
“Through the selling of the book the said Sreeni
Pattathanam gain money illegally and also gain
publicity illegally.” But publishing and selling books
is not considered as illegal in India or anywhere in
the world. Neither is it illegal to gain publicity
thereby. Hence the contentions and the arguments of
the plaintiff are weak and not legitimate.

The PUCL State Committee expressed its grief in the
growing intolerance of the fanatics. It affirms that
we can expect tolerance, love, and compassion only
from a civilized people.

International Humanist and Ethical Union’s
intervention

International Humanist and Ethical Union became aware
of the prosecution proceedings from the very
beginning. Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam as well as Mr. C.I.
Oommen, the President of Bharatiya Rationalist
Association, met with IHEU leaders in January 2003 and
in a video taped interview with IHEU Executive
Director Babu Gogineni they told about their fears
that in view of the prevailing campaign against
rationalists, and the rise of Hindu fundamentalism,
the danger for them was still not over, and that
efforts to prosecute would be restarted. Mr.
Pattathanam could be arrested and even tortured.
Custodial deaths are not uncommon in Kerala, they
reminded the free thinkers. Mr. Pattathanam says:
“This inhuman and cruel move against a writer by Hindu
Fascists should be stopped”. He told a newspaper, “If
the charges contained in my book are baseless, the
devotees could have published a rejoinder. They have
published malicious reports against rationalists in
their publications”.

IHEU calls upon the Kerala State government to uphold
the principles of secularism and Humanism incorporated
in Article 51 A (h) of the Indian Constitution which
enjoins every Indian citizen to develop scientific
temper and Humanism.

IHEU also calls upon its member organizations,
associates, human rights activists and defenders of
democratic principles to send letters of protest to
the Chief Minister of Kerala as well as the Home
Secretary of Kerala state. IHEU is bringing the urgent
matter to the attention also of Amnesty International,
Human Rights Watch, Reporters Sans Frontieres, The
International Committee for the Protection of
Journalists and the UN Special Rapporteur of Freedom
of Religion or Belief. www.iheu.org

Need of the hour
Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam’s case is not a new one in
human history. He inherits the great minds of the yore
that showed an extraordinary courage to criticize the
established religion and the state. Socrates had to
drink the hemlock, Hypatia, a courageous woman in the
medieval period who criticized the Church, are some
examples we have from the pages of ancient history. In
modern times too, writer’s like Salman Rushdie and
Tasleema Nasreen are being subjected to the
intolerance of religious fanaticism. Recently in
Pakistan Dr. Younus Shaikh had been jailed for
blasphemy. But as a result of the worldwide demand for
the release of Dr.Younus the Pakistan government had
to release him from death sell. So if human rights
activists, secularists, free thinkers and rationalists
take this matter seriously and act urgently to
persuade the government to quit from the execution of
the Order that will be a boon to all those who think
freely. Above all, if we act in this very moment we
could perhaps prevent the similar incidents in future.
What we must do now is to organize a worldwide
campaign and do everything in favour of this writer
and hence the Kerala State Committee of PUCL requests
the cooperation of all like-minded people and
organizations in this regard.

http://www.petitiononline.com/sreenidc/petition.html

PLEASE SEND LETTER TO
Mr. A.K. Antony
The Chief Minister of Kerala State
Government Secretariat
Thiruvananthapuram 695 001
Kerala, India
Fax:+91-0471-2333489 Email:
cmkerala@vsnl.net and

chiefminister@kerala.gov.in

Dear Chief Minister Mr.A.K. Antony,

I am writing to protest against the recent govt. order
to sanction the prosecution of an author and
rationalist leader Mr. Sreeni Pattathanam in your
state, because of his book Matha Amruthandamayi -
Divya Kadhakalum Yatharthiavum (Matha
Amrithanandamayi: Sacred Stories and Realities, Mass
Publications, revised edition) exposing the alleged
wrong doings of Mata Amritanandamayi.

I am aware of your own personal devotion to Mata
Amrithanandamayi; however, I am alarmed that as Chief
Minister as well as home minister incharge of police
and security, instead of examining the evidence
produced in the book and launching an inquiry into the
ashram activities, you have chosen to initiate moves
to prosecute Mr. Sreeni Patthathanam on the grounds
that his book has hurt the religious sentiments of
people, following a complaint by one Mr. Ajan. The
Mata’s organisation is registered as a social
organisation and not as a religious organisation. How
can criticism of a social organisation and the doings
of those associated with it cause hurt to religious
sentiments? In any case, religious leaders cannot be
immune from the attentions of the criminal justice
system.

I call on you to uphold the principles of secular
democracy, to uphold the rule of law, and to protect
Mr. Pattathanam’s freedom of _expression and belief
and its lawful exercise.

In these troubles times in India where intolerance is
on the rise, the international community is watching
you and looking to you to uphold democratic principles

Yours sincerely,
Expecting your urgent intervention in this matter.
Sd/-

Adv. P.A. Pauran, President, PUCL, Kerala.
V. Venugopal, General Secretary, PUCL, Kerala.
Jacob V. Lazer, Treasurer, PUCL, Kerala. Tel: 98472
97466

Copy of your suggestions and comments may be forwarded to:
Email:

sreenidcpucl@yahoo.co.in
jacobkaloor@yahoo.co.uk

 

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