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Rise Of A God Woman And
The Right To Expression

By A Sidharth

18 March, 2004

The 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 obscure act.

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.

Matha Amruthananthamayi's 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.

Sudhamani's growth 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 of Amruthananthamayi.

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 and abroad.

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.






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Protect The Life Of Sreeni Pattathanam