Rise Of A God Woman And
The Right To Expression
By A Sidharth
18 March, 2004
Kerala Chief Minister Mr. A. K. Antony is at it again. Antony, who had
been toeing the Sangh Parivar line ever since he came to power has ordered
the prosecution of Sreeni Pattathanam , author of the controversial
book, "Matha Amruthananthamayi - Mysteries And Realities"
on a God Woman, Matha Amruthananthamayi, who collected a huge number
of followers in Kerala, all over India and abroad, including top government
functionaries like Chief Ministers, Ministers, Governors, top bureaucrats
and leading business persons. Mr.Sreeni Pattathanam is being prosecuted
under section 295 A of the Indian Penal code. Section 295 A is the legal
code providing protection against deliberate and malicious acts, intended
to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion
or religious beliefs. To give this issue a sense of history, this is
the first time in the history of independent India, an author is prosecuted
under section 295 A of the Indian Penal code.
It would be interesting
to find out why the Kerala Government is resorting to such an obscure
rule, which, not even the infamous Narendra Modi government did not
find fit to use in their crude definition of democracy.
Section 295 A is
safeguards against "outraging of religious feelings". No one
has ever heard of a religion founded by Amruthanantha Mayi. "Amruthanantha
Mayi Math" is a charitable organisation registered under the charitable
societies act. By the math's own admission, it is a non religious organisation
where people of all religion are welcome. Moreover, a "Universal
Mother" as Amruthanantha Mayi claims herself, cannot be the mother
of a particular religion, cast or creed. in his zest to please the Math
authorities and the large train of the militant Matha devotees , Antony
has looked over all these obvious facts. In this election year, may
be he is hoping to win the support of the RSS, who are the patrons of
the Matha and the Math, which came under under cloud of suspision following
the mysterious death of a string of devotees and the dubiousness of
financial deals, including untraceable foreign funds. The RSS has found
the Matha a prop to get its foot hold for Hindutwa politics, in a slippery
Kerala political climate.
It was in 1933 that
Section 295 A was last used . But the case was dismissed unfounded.
Now, the author Sreeni Pattathanom who is also the general secretary
of the Indian Rationalists Association,the publisher P.S. Kumar and
the owner of the printing press S. Saji will be prosecuted under this
To understand why
A.K. Antony resorted to such an extreme step to please the Matha, her
devotees, the Math and the RSS, we need to understand the phenomenon
called Amruthanantha Mayi, her past and present, the political clout
she (with her cronies) holds in Kerala society, and the political leanings
and ambitions of Chief Minister Mr. A.K. Antony.
real life name is Sudhamani. She was born in 1953, in the small village
- Parayakadavu near Kollam to a family of fisher folks. She did not
have much of an education to talk about as she dropped out in the primary
school itself. At the age of 17 she went to a bhajan, and during bhajan
the she broke into a frenzied dance claiming , she was Krishna . The
next day she danced and said she was Kali (Durga). And that was the
beginning of the journey of a young fisher woman on the path of universal
Motherhood, that took her even to the UN general assembly where she
addressed the world.
The Matha's growth
was phenomenal. The little girl who danced to the small community of
villagers grew virtually into an industry worth hundreds of crores of
rupees. Politicians and bureaucrats poured in from all parts of the
world and fell upon her feet. Donations flew from everywhere, and the
political connections made sure that none of this was accounted for.
Charity institutions and educational institutions sprouted all around
the country in her name. It makes sense to spend a portion of money
on charity!!!!! The charity worked as bait to rope in potential devotess.
Those who need charity had to get certified by the net work of Amruthananthamayi
Math branches sprouting in every nook and corner of Kerala. And the
"Amma" had no shortage of devotees from a state economically
ravaged by a failing agro economy, accentuated by the arrival of globalisation
and stressed to the limits by a rampant consumerist lifestyle. People
were ready to fall upon any shoulder that was offered to cry. And she
had able managers to run the show exceptionally well. The "Universal
Mother" was packaged and marketed using the latest management techniques.
The Matha's 50th
birthday celebration in , "Amruthavarsham 2003", was a show
of might. It was designed to show the world the reach and power of the
Matha Amruthananda Mayi industry. The president and the Vice President
of India, the Deputy Prime Minister, Chief Ministers and governors of
several states, high court and supreme court judges and several high
ranking bureaucrats, top businessmen and several artists attended the
celebrations. The Jawaharalal Nehru International stadium in Kochi was
rented several months in advance and the four day show was attended
by as per the organisers claim by one lakh devotees everyday.
to "Universal Motherhood" was not a smooth ride though. It
was mired in deceit and violence. A path strewn with dead bodies as
the law of the land and the state machinery looked away. Someone had
to track down this path and count the bodies. This is exactly what Sreeni
Pattathanam has done in his book. Mr. Sreeni diligently trace the trail
of Amma and digs out the dead bodies. He reproduces the police records,
FIRs, and press records which directly link the deaths of several adversaries
and devotees with the Amritananthamayi Math. He records nine such deaths
in this book including that of the Matha's elder brother who vehemently
opposed the young Sudhamani's hysterical dances.
The book raises
question marks against the conduct of the Matha's father Sugunananthan
as well. The book brings out several incidents where Sugunanathan threatens
to kill his adversaries, boasting that the law won't touch him as all
the government functionaries are the devotees of his daughter.
Mr. Sreeni reproduces
in the book a complaint filed to the Superintendent of Police, Kollam
district by A.K. Manimallika, a former devotee of Amruthananthamayi.
She was living with the Matha's parents and Sugunanathan approached
her for sexual gratification, on being refused she was beaten up and
thrown out of the ashram. In the complaint Manimallika accuses Sugunananthan
of threatening to kill her by saying, " Even the Prime Minister
, and the ministers come and fall upon the feet of my daughter. No one
is going to raise a finger against us. Even if we kill you, no one is
going to take action.(Page 139) In June, 1998 she filed a complaint
to state women's commission as well, but no action was taken so far.
Mr. Sreeni, who
is a rationalist himself, also tears apart the mysteries and miracles
associated with the Matha. It is the nature of these kind of findings
that have infuriated devotees of Matha, including Chief Minister Antony
himself, who rushes off to hug the Matha whenever she comes visiting
the state capital Trivandrum , or to goes off to her ashram at Vallikkavu
whenever there is an election in the offing.
It is not the first
time that the devotees of Matha turned against those who questioned
her divinity and the misdeeds of her followers. Last year, eminent writer
Paul Zakaria was issued a death threat for criticising the godliness
The racket has virtually
made the local media the kitchen servants of the Math, with a combination
of collective bargaining, abuse and even threat. The news coverage received
for "Amruthavarsham 2003" has to be seen to be believed. Almost
all main stream papers brought out special supplements and editions
to please the Math, television channel's devoted hours of airtime to
show the gala affair. In a public show of arrogance one Swami tore away
a leading daily, which he perceived was not up to his mark in coverage
as all the scribes looked on. All this in a state known for its secular
and literary traditions.
It is not just the
issue of religious obscurantism associated with public celebration of
magic and miracles, and the marketing of nirvana that is worrying us
but the hijacking of such massive gatherings and sometimes innocent
devotion of thousands of devotees by fascist forces. The "Amruthavarsham
2003" was a show run exclusively by RSS volunteers. It is not a
secret that the Math is a brand by which the RSS is trying to market
its Hindutwa in Kerala.
This book does not
shed light into the secret society of Amruthananthamayi Math nor the
financial empire which runs into hundreds of crones of rupees. This
book also does not shed light on the flow of funds from inside the country
The chief Minister
A.K.Antony who became the darling of the Sangh Parivar by accusing the
Minorities of the state of misusing their minority status to gain undue
privileges found it a good opportunity to please the Hindutwa camp again,
as another election is close at hand. But by doing so he is threatening
the basic democratic values ingrained in our constitution. And in the
process he has put Mr. Narendra Modi to shame.