Mathura, Oct 15: Organizing an atheist conclave in a conservative nation like India might had been a too valorous of an idea. The members of Swami Balendu ashram felt the wrath of Hindu and Muslim right-wing groups who unitedly launched a violent agitation against group for attempting to organize a two-day Nastik Sammelan. The proposed meeting atheists was scheduled to be held at the Swami Balendu ashram in Mathura. However, the members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, along with clerics of local Jama Masjid launched an agitation outside the Balendu ashram, demanding cancellation of the event.
The protesters reached the ashram on Friday morning, armed with batons, sticks and rods, as per the Scroll report. The agitators warned of consequences if such an event is organized in Mathura. Buckled under pressure, Mathura police were forced to cancel the permission allotted for the event, claiming that it could “hurt religious sentiments”. Swami Balendu, who is dubbed as an ‘atheist preacher’ called it an attack on freedom of expression. “Constitution permits us to be non-believers. This is violation of our freedom of expression.” Balendu further claimed that all necessary permissions had been obtained from the Mathura police to organize the atheist conclave.
According to Mathura police, the organizers of Nastik Sammelan had obtained a permission, but did not specify that the programme was related to atheism. Police claims that members of Balendu ashram only conveyed that they are holding the conference. Superintendent of Police (City) Alok Priyadarshi added that the event could had caused communal disharmony and therefore the police have taken necessary action. (ALSO READ: Secular India giving freedom to Muslim board to go against UCC: Shiv Sena)
Raking up charges of blasphemy against Swami Balendu, one local socio-religious leader Phool Das Maharaj claimed that the atheist preacher had remarked that “all scriptures are fictitious and are intended only for entertainment.” Maharaj demanded a ban against Balendu for making such provocative remarks against Hinduism and other religions.
Important to note is that Balendu was once a spiritual preacher and later turned into an atheist. He has a niche fan following, mainly among the non-believers. Some critics also claim that Balendu could attempt to create a cult following among the non-believers, similar to the ones which exist within the organized religions.
The number of athiests in India are nearly 0.27 per cent of the population. As per the 2011 census, only 33,000 people identified themselves as athiests. However, the actual figures are expected to be higher, as many people fear publicly identifying themselves as athiests.